Chancellor James B. Milliken

Chancellor James B. Milliken

Appointed to start on June 1, 2014, James B. Milliken serves as Chancellor of The City University of New York. »

Testimony, Student Admissions

October 6, 2004 | Speeches and Testimony

Good afternoon, Chair Barron and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity today to discuss the qualifications, including SAT scores, for students admitted to The City University of New York. I would also like to thank you for your ongoing leadership in supporting an investment in CUNY—an investment repaid many times over by our graduates, who live and work in New York and contribute so mightily to the city, state, and nation.

I am pleased today to be able to describe the very real progress that CUNY has made over the past several years in attracting students better prepared to do collegiate-level work. To fully explain student qualifications, it will also be necessary for me to talk about increases in student enrollment and student preparation at CUNY. I have with me four charts that will detail these increases, and I will refer to each during my discussion.

At the outset I would like to share with you the latest enrollment figures and trends for the University. I am pleased to announce that this fall, total headcount at CUNY has surpassed 219,000, the highest enrollment in almost 30 years. Since the mid-1970s, enrollment has fluctuated, but as you can see in Chart #1, enrollment has grown steadily since 1999, surging 12.3%, which represents a gain of more than 24,000 students. Over the past five years, all sectors of the University have contributed to this growth, including the community colleges, the comprehensive colleges (Medgar Evers, the College of Staten Island, John Jay, and New York City College of Technology), and the seven senior colleges. This upward trend reflects a number of factors, including growing numbers of high school students, as well as the availability of financial aid, including the New York City Council Vallone scholarship program.

When describing the academic preparation of new students, institutions of higher education in the United States commonly report data for two groups. The first consists of prospective freshmen who meet the admissions criteria of the college and have been offered admission. The second is made up of those who choose to enroll at the institution. As we all know, higher education is a competitive marketplace, and talented high school graduates have many options. CUNY’s senior colleges compete with many other institutions for the most qualified high school graduates, and in recent years CUNY has been winning this competition more often.

CUNY routinely releases information about the academic profile of the admitted class at the start of the academic year, before data on enrolled students are available. In September, CUNY invariably receives media inquiries on this subject. Guidance counselors at the high schools ask for this information so that they can inform their students about what it takes to be admitted to CUNY. In responding, the University has sought to inform the public in a timely fashion about the impact of the University’s rising standards on the pool of students it admits to its baccalaureate programs.

Later in the academic year, once the pertinent data have been received from every CUNY college, the University routinely reports SAT data on its enrolled students. CUNY reports this information to the National Center for Education Statistics, where it is available to anyone who wishes to access the website of this agency. CUNY also reports the SAT scores of enrolled freshmen every spring to U. S. News and World Report for publication in the magazine’s annual college guide, which reaches two to six times its normal audience of 13 million readers. CUNY colleges also transmit the SAT scores of enrolled students to a host of other college guides, including Peterson’s and The Princeton Review.

In sum, for many years CUNY has been presenting a balanced picture of itself by reporting information on the SAT scores not only of its admitted but also its enrolled students.

Whichever indicator we examine, one conclusion is inescapable: In just the past few years, CUNY has made remarkable progress in attracting talented students to its senior colleges. I have brought with me today more than one chart to document this progress. The data in charts 2 and 3 refer to students who are required to submit SAT scores and who are part of the regular admissions process at CUNY.

Chart #2 contains a particularly noteworthy feature: the two lines are parallel to one another. The top blue line shows the upward surge in scores for the admitted class, while the lower red line shows an equal increase for enrolled students. Since 1997, this University has admitted an increasingly able group of students, and these students have chosen to come to CUNY.

Looking again at chart #2, you can see that between Fall 1997 and Fall 2003, the mean total SAT scores of admitted students rose by 90 points from 1001 to 1091, an increase of 9.0%. The admitted class of Fall 2004 posted still another increase, to 1116. Meanwhile, between Fall 1997 and Fall 2003, SAT scores for the enrolled class rose by 87 points, from 953 to 1040, an increase of 9.1%. Data for the enrolled entering class of 2004 will be available in November, after the University’s Form A is submitted to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

Chart #2 reports on the SAT scores of freshmen matriculating the seven senior colleges—Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter, Lehman, Queens, and York. (We have not reported on the comprehensive colleges because most freshmen entering these four colleges begin in associate programs, where SAT scores are not required.) It is worth noting, however, that 80% of senior-college students attend CUNY’s top-tier colleges—Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter, and Queens. At these colleges, recent gains in the academic preparation of the freshman class are impressive. Chart #3 contains the following information: Since 1997 SAT scores for candidates who have been admitted to the five top-tier colleges have surged from 1016 to 1106 in Fall 2003, a gain of 8.9%, while scores for enrolled freshmen rose by 9.4%, from 967 to 1058. Preliminary data for this fall indicate that this progress will continue, with an average of 1123 for admitted students.

SAT scores are not the only indication of a more academically prepared freshman class. The average score on the English Regents Exam for entering cohorts of first-time freshmen has increased 9 points over the last six years to 82. This year’s entering freshmen have completed more college preparatory course work than their 1997 counterparts, and the percentage of students earning four or more high school math units is up 10 percentage points, to 48%, compared with the 1997 cohort. These gains reflect better preparation by all students; our Honors College participants, for example, who began at CUNY in 2001, make up only a small fraction—under three percent—of our freshman class. Overall, our students are commencing their studies better prepared for collegiate work, and the academic payoff is clear. The percentage of students who remain enrolled and who ultimately graduate has been rising steadily.

In addition to these important factors there is another one that cannot be over-emphasized. This University has been able attract growing numbers of students from across the full spectrum of high schools and neighborhoods in the City of New York. Last fall, for example, the number of black freshmen entering CUNY senior colleges was 6.5% higher than it was in 1999, and Hispanic enrollments were 14.7% higher. CUNY’s diversity is evident in the racial composition of senior college undergraduates last fall: 18% Asian, 22% Hispanic, 26% black, and 34% white. This University has also continued to attract immigrant students from over 160 countries.

Why are so many talented students choosing to attend CUNY? Several factors are worth noting:

· The Vallone Scholarship Program, funded by the New York City Council to help CUNY-bound students, has been an important factor. The council showed great foresight in creating this program to provide high achievers with critical help to meet the costs of attending college, and the Higher Education Committee has been instrumental in protecting the student recipients from budget cuts. To qualify for the scholarship, students must have a B average on graduation from high school, and to keep the scholarship, students must maintain that B average at CUNY and remain full-time students. Chart #4 shows the large number of students who have benefited from the program since its inception in 1998. In that year, the program served just over 4,000 students. This fall, the number has grown by about 25% to just over 5,000 students. This scholarship has encouraged academic achievement in the high schools and at CUNY, and we are expanding our outreach to the high schools to further publicize this invaluable program.

· Another factor is CUNY’s outreach to the high schools through the College Now program, which helps to prepare high schools students for collegiate work and gives them an opportunity to take college courses. Between 2000 and 2003, College Now registrations grew from about 9,100 to more than 51,000.

· Finally, talented students have been drawn to CUNY’s Honors College and the many honors programs run by each of our colleges. We also know that students seek opportunities to work with CUNY’s excellent faculty members, who maintain strong national reputations.

We are very proud of the University’s continuing ability to attract excellent students. In addition to the rising enrollments of degree-seeking students, CUNY has also seen a dramatic increase in its adult education enrollment, to more than 240,000 students annually. Combined, our overall student body is fast approaching half a million students—a tribute to the work of our faculty, staff, and supporters, such as this council, and an indication of the pressing need for expanded capital support to provide a modern learning environment. We at CUNY remain committed to helping all students succeed in their educational goals by encouraging their preparation for, and awareness of, the challenges offered by all of our colleges.