CUNY and New York City Public School Graduates are Thriving
New York City public high school graduates are thriving at CUNY Colleges, like Fei Yan Mock, who received her foundation for learning at the New York City Lab High School in Manhattan and is now an undergraduate at Hunter College majoring in biochemistry and classical studies.
Fei hasn’t had it easy. She was born in China decades after Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin introduced their polio vaccines, but those vaccines weren’t available where she lived. She contracted polio and has used a wheelchair all of her life. But that hasn’t stopped Fei. Indeed, it has given her a goal: earning a doctorate in biomedical science focused on bringing affordable vaccines to Third World countries. She has received several major competitive and prestigious fellowships, including the Clare Booth Luce and Hunter College’s McNair Scholars awards. Fei is now interning at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine.
Don Gomez, a graduate of Martin Van Buren High School, is a junior at the City College of New York. Don served two tours in Iraq, leaving the Army as a sergeant. He founded the City College Veterans Association and was particularly instrumental in establishing an Office of Veterans Affairs on the campus. Don is majoring in international studies with a concentration on the Middle East. He is a Colin Powell Leadership Fellow, a recipient of a scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association, and this year received a prestigious Harry S. Truman Fellowship worth $30,000 for graduate study. Don has studied Arabic and hopes to work for the U.S. State Department. He recently said, “The State Department will need motivated foreign service officers who are willing to sacrifice personal comfort and security to accomplish an increasingly complex and challenging mission.”
It should come as no surprise that New York City public high school students are succeeding at CUNY. CUNY’s interdependence dates back to 1847 when Townsend Harris, the first president of the Board of Education, led the battle to create the Free Academy, the predecessor of The City College of New York.
Here are some more recent examples:
• 70 percent of CUNY students are graduates of New York City public schools. Nearly one third of all new teachers hired by the New York City Department of Education are CUNY educated.
• The College Now program, which started at Kingsborough Community College in 1981, currently serves more than 30,000 students annually at over 300 public high schools at all 17 undergraduate CUNY colleges. College Now students earn more first-year credits, have higher GPAs, and are retained at higher rates than other New York City high school graduates.
• Eleven public schools, mostly high schools, are located at CUNY colleges, including many of the most highly regarded in the City (such as The High School for American Studies at Lehman College or Townsend Harris High School at Queens College).
• Eleven Early College schools exist today at CUNY, preparing students for college beginning in either the sixth or ninth grades.
• CUNY’s teacher education programs are providing candidates that are passing the key certification tests in record numbers. On the two exams required to teach in New York State (the Liberal Arts and Science Test [LAST] and the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written [ATS-W]), pass rates for many CUNY colleges increased from below the norm of 80 percent in 1998 to 97 percent and 99 percent, respectively, in 2006-07.
• CUNY currently has more than 9,600 students enrolled in graduate-level teacher education programs. CUNY’s Graduate School and University Center offers a highly attractive Ph.D. program in urban education to prepare leaders in educational research and policy analysis, with an emphasis on the New York City public schools.
CUNY’s success and the success of the City’s public schools are inextricably linked. These are interdependent systems that work best when they work in partnership. Today, more than ever, New York City and State need the talents of the skilled graduates of our public schools and colleges to meet the challenges of an unforgiving economy, an increasingly technology-oriented society, and a world where problem-solving requires a highly educated citizenry. #
Jay Hershenson is Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board of Trustees at The City University of New York.