The City University Attracts Talent from Near and Far

May 1, 2002 | CUNY Matters Columns

The following is adapted from an op-ed article
by ChancellorMatthew Goldstein.

Sylvia Ranguelova emigrated from Bulgaria with her family in 1997, knowing no English. Two years later, she scored a perfect 5 on the American History Advanced Placement exam. Thanks to a Peter F. Vallone Academic Scholarship, initiated by the City Council, she is now a pre-law student at Brooklyn College and a member of its prestigious Honors Academy.

David Fischbein grew up on Long Island. His father is a physicist, his mother holds a master’s degree, and both his brothers graduated from Queens College. At Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, David took A.P. courses, won the Nassau County Mathletes Award in 2000, and was admitted to the French National Honors Society in the same year. He is now enrolled in the new CUNY Honors College at Queens College.

Mark Rodriguez, who lives with his family in East Harlem, was a chemistry major at Brooklyn Technical High School, where he was an award-winning writer of essays, poetry and fiction, a biology tutor, and a volunteer for Family Dynamics and the Children’s Defense Fund. He is now a CUNY Honors College student attending City College and planning a career as an epidemiologist.

Three different students–three very different backgrounds. What they have in common is that they are among the very brightest and most promising young people you will find anywhere in the world¤and they are studying at CUNY. Three years ago, we began the phase-in of strengthened admissions standards and the elimination of remedial instruction at our senior colleges. Some critics voiced concerns that such higher standards would drive away potential applicants, including minority students. Others expressed the view that greater expectations would enhance CUNY’s attractiveness to prospective students.

The available data shows that the doors to educational opportunity continue to be open to all New Yorkers. CUNY is attracting more students than at any time in its history. Enrollment increased last fall by 6% in the freshmen class and nearly 7% in transfer students. This spring, freshman enrollment at our senior colleges surged by more than 23%. Amid these increases, the ethnic composition of our student body has remained essentially the same, embracing almost 200 nationalities and 160 different languages.

The University’s higher academic standards are paying extraordinary dividends. We are attracting high achievers like Sylvia, David and Mark from around the world and in our own back yard. Through programs such as our Honors College and the more broadly available Vallone Scholarships (there have been more than 18,000 to date), CUNY is recruiting and keeping our best and brightest young people right here as New York City rebuilds. As negotiations begin on the city budget, Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council should restore the $7 million needed to fund the Vallone Scholarships.

Last year, the new CUNY Honors College enrolled its inaugural class of more than 200 academically talented students at five of our senior colleges. They are receiving full scholarships and an array of academic perquisites. Small wonder that we have received 2,500 applications (1,000 more than last year) to become next year’s Honors freshmen.

Our campuses proudly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the City in the aftermath of 9/11. Now, as we rebuild for an even brighter future, CUNY is dedicating itself anew to safeguarding our single most precious resource: the bright, talented students from all walks of life who will comprise the next generation of New Yorkers, students like David, Mark and Sylvia. They should not have to leave New York City to receive the benefits of a top-quality higher education.