CUNY Master Plan 2000 | Preliminary Observations

During the past several years considerable thought has been given, and action taken, to raise standards in public schools, colleges, and universities. In 1992, for example, the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) recommended that institutions of higher education make a concerted effort to establish a coordinated definition of college level study that applies to all institutions in a state or institutional system. It also recommended that every institution have exit criteria for remedial courses that establish readiness to begin college-level study. The 320,000 student California State University System approved a plan in February of 1996 to reduce the percentage of students needing remedial education from 45 percent to 11 percent over 11 years. Similar recommendations and approved plans characterize systems and institutions in Texas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Virginia, among others. As an example of this trend, the Massachusetts Higher Education Coordinating Council, frustrated with poor preparation and shaky academic records of many public college students, ordered state institutions to use tougher admissions standards beginning in 1997.

At the heart of the concern for standards at public institutions of higher education is a sense that public schools have failed to adequately prepare many students who seek a public education. Recently, that sense has been understood by school administrators, school boards, teachers, and public leaders and translated into action so that problems can be addressed much earlier in the educational pipeline. New York State, with its new Regents requirements for high school graduation, is an example. Over the next several years, all students graduating from public high school in New York will be required to pass rigorous Regents examinations in five core subject areas. Other states, such as California, Massachusetts, and Texas, have introduced similar requirements in which expectations of student achievement go well beyond the basic skills and competencies that had been expected in the past.

The City University of New York, in deliberately choosing a course that rests on raising and sustaining higher standards for all students for admission and graduation, is in the mainstream of a nationwide effort to provide more meaningful educational opportunities at institutions of public higher education. The University recognizes that these opportunities must be offered to the widest range of students, including, importantly, those who are among the most highly qualified as well as those who are inadequately prepared for college. As top-rated public institutions accept students with higher and higher abilities, CUNY too must prepare to serve the most talented and qualified. Only by providing such opportunities can the University truly carry out its responsibility to serve urban New Yorkers well.

Moving forward into the 21st century, the University’s leadership has determined to focus on the wider range of students, partnering with the public schools to ensure adequate preparation, introducing more rigorous standards for admission – standards equivalent to, at a small number of colleges, the nation’s more selective institutions – and improving the quality of academic programs, supports, and services.

This Master Plan represents an effort to define the University’s new direction. It describes an institution determined to recover from years of neglect, years in which budgets were continually cut and in which the University was forced to operate within severe fiscal constraints. It is an institution focused on the restoration of standards, on regenerating the strengths of its colleges and its faculty, and on rebuilding its infrastructure. The document describes an institution that seeks to sharpen the missions of its colleges, improve program quality and the delivery of services, and enhance effectiveness and efficiency on the campuses and system-wide. Most importantly, the Master Plan 2000-2004 describes an institution in the mainstream of public higher education – not at the margins. It is an institution in harmony with new, more rigorous standards in the public schools, and at its helm are leaders entrusted with renewing its commitment to New York by providing the widest range of meaningful educational opportunities and outcomes.

The City University of New York