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MAY/JUNE 2017

GUEST EDITORIAL
CUNY Students: Their Goals Today

By Chancellor James B. Milliken, CUNY

 

CUNY Chancello James B. Miliken
By Chancellor James B. Milliken, CUNY

There are few universities that have greater impact or that offer more sizable rewards than CUNY. Because of our special mission, our 275,000 students make up about the most diverse student body in the country, one that benefits enormously from the opportunities of a high quality education: forty percent are the first in their families to attend college; roughly 40 percent are foreign born; and, more than 50 percent come from households with annual incomes of $30,000 or less.

Fulfilling our mission on behalf of those hard-working and talented students has never been more difficult – or more important. A college diploma is an indispensable element of success. According to one estimate, within three years two-thirds of all jobs will require a college degree. College graduates enjoy about double the lifetime earnings of a high school graduate, and that gap is likely to grow.

There are substantial hurdles to success. For one, we know that in our society talent is distributed evenly across demographic groups and income levels, but opportunity is not. Success in preparing for, during and after college is, too often, correlated with wealth. Among students who earned bachelor’s degrees by age 24 in 2014, 54 percent came from the top 25 percent of family income earners and just 10 percent from the bottom quartile. Put simply, that vast opportunity gap is unacceptable.

Our new vision addresses that gap and more. We call it Connected CUNY, underscoring the reality that we cannot climb this mountain alone; our initiatives require a great deal more collaboration, communication and partnering among CUNY’s colleges, between the university and other institutions, with government agencies, philanthropies and with major industries. To remain an engine of mobility on a scale that can really make a difference in this restless giant of a city, we have to change. Here is our plan:

First, access, a fundamental value at CUNY, is being widened considerably. We already have numerous programs to help prepare thousands of New York’s high school students for college, but under our strategic framework we are scaling them up in coordination with the DOE and broadening their reach so more students learn about CUNY’s opportunities, how affordable we are, and nurture the skills needed to succeed in college. We have deepened our approaches to remediation so fewer students are required to take remedial courses and those that do are more successful.

Second, we are expanding programs to dramatically increase CUNY’s graduation rates. We are building on years of evidence and providing even greater support so that our students stay on track to graduate with those valuable diplomas in a timely way. We commit to doubling our community college graduation rates. We are scaling up our revolutionary ASAP program to 25,000 students next fall. We also are piloting similar programs at our senior colleges.

Third, we are expanding significantly our programs for giving students more workplace experience through internships and other initiatives, and we are working closely with fast-growing industries to build into our curriculum courses that give CUNY students the skills these employers seek. This effort will give our graduates the experience, networks and confidence they need to excel in careers in industries such as finance, health care, information technology, engineering and the arts.

CUNY students and scholars deliver the leadership, the creativity and the drive that make New York New York. Connected CUNY will ensure that they continue to do so, and in much greater numbers. #

Chancellor James B. Milliken is the Chancellor of all CUNY schools in New York City.

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