Testimony, Statewide Plan for Higher Education

April 5, 2005 | Speeches and Testimony

Good morning, members of the Board of Regents, Commissioner Mills, Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier, and Assistant Commissioner Joseph Frey. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today about The City University of New York and the statewide plan for higher education in New York. I especially want to acknowledge your leadership in helping the University fulfill its vital educational mission.

As demonstrated by its previous and current master plans, unanimously approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees, CUNY has committed itself to a strong course of academic renewal, and has made significant progress in achieving its ambitious aims. This strategic course dovetails with the course set by the statewide master plan, which itself calls for an important strengthening of service to New York’s students. CUNY’s accomplishments to date show that we are already advancing on the statewide plan, thanks in large part to the outstanding presidential leadership in place at the CUNY colleges. This morning I’d like to share some examples of our progress and continuing efforts in that regard.

Performance

This year has been one of extraordinary achievement by current and future CUNY students, which reflect CUNY’s increased academic standards and the fertile educational environment the University offers the state’s students.

Just last week, junior Claudio Simpkins of the CUNY Honors College at City College was named a Truman Scholar. He is one of only 75 students nationally—and the only student in New York City—to win the prestigious $30,000 scholarship that recognizes students with exceptional leadership skills who are committed to public service. Another City College student, Philipa Njau, received a Goldwater Scholarship, the premier national award for outstanding math, science, and engineering students.

These announcements come just a couple of weeks after the news that Hunter High School senior David Bauer, who beat out 1,600 entrants to win the $100,000 national Intel Science Talent Search contest, has chosen to attend the CUNY Honors College. And in November 2004, two CUNY students, Eugene Shenderov of Brooklyn College and Lev Sviridov of City College, were selected as 2005 Rhodes Scholars, and will attend the University of Oxford this fall.

These students are not alone in finding rich academic opportunities at CUNY. Our enrollment is at its highest level since 1975. In fall 2004, more Asian, Black, and Hispanic freshmen were enrolled in baccalaureate programs than had been enrolled the previous fall. At our top-tier colleges, average SAT scores of admitted and enrolled students have increased significantly, first-term GPAs for freshmen have increased, retention rates have improved, and graduation rates have increased. The graduation rate for all minority students at CUNY improved at more than twice the rate for whites between 2001 and 2003. Overall, our six-year baccalaureate graduation rates jumped 10.3 percentage points in the last five years.

Our 2004-2008 Master Plan, like your statewide plan, continues to make performance and retention a priority. We want to ensure that students are challenged by a rigorous curriculum and that underprepared students receive the developmental support, advising, and tutoring they need, including that provided by the SEEK, College Discovery, and summer immersion programs. Our master plan also incorporates a Chancellor’s Initiative on the Black Male in Education, which focuses on better understanding the particular challenges facing African American and Caribbean American men and promoting best practices for increased enrollment and retention of young black men. A CUNY task force of educators and social scientists with expertise in matters of race, gender, and urban social relations is working to develop a series of proposals for the entire University. In addition, CUNY’s new exchange agreement with the Dominican Republic will offer enhanced educational opportunities for CUNY students and faculty, including study-abroad programs, research collaborations, and exchanges of specialists and visiting scholars.

Educational Quality/Research

The statewide plan rightly prioritizes educational quality. This has been the cornerstone of CUNY’s own master plan, and our strategic efforts to create a flagship environment continue to produce positive results.

Our full-time faculty are the most critical component in our ability to maintain the intellectual strength of the University. In the last two years alone, we have added more than 600 new full-time faculty, and now have close to 6,300—including 300 at our community colleges. Our cluster hiring is enhancing our national reputation in several academic areas, including engineering at City College, small business and entrepreneurship at Baruch College, and criminal justice and forensic science at John Jay College.

The effects of hiring the best faculty and encouraging a flagship environment can also be seen in CUNY’s increased research activity. From 2000 to 2004, total grant and contract revenue at CUNY increased 63 percent. In 2004, grants to CUNY faculty and staff were in excess of $300 million. In this last year, CUNY’s New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Photonics Applications, one of 10 Centers for Advanced Technology (CAT) in the state, was re-designated, with the support of the governor, as a CAT site, and will receive $10 million over the next 10 years from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR). The center has collaborated with nearly 60 companies over the last decade and been awarded over 50 U.S. patents.

Modern facilities and equipment are essential to our campuses, if we are to accomplish truly innovative research, attract the best faculty researchers, and nurture the best students in science, engineering, and technology. We will be investing more than $400 million to build new facilities or modernize existing science buildings at Brooklyn, Hunter, Lehman, Queens, and City colleges over the next few years. Central to this effort is our ongoing plan for the Advanced Science Research Center, a university-wide facility that will help us develop an integrated research network throughout the University. An additional priority is funding for tuition remission for graduate students, to enable us to competitively recruit the best students to the University, enhancing their training as well as the research capabilities of our faculty.

Our focus on educational quality will be highlighted this spring, when the CUNY Honors College graduates its first class. These accomplished graduates are currently fielding offers of acceptance from the best professional and graduate schools in the country. Many others have accepted offers of employment from prestigious investment and accounting firms in the city. Since the Honors College was inaugurated in 2001, both its reputation and its enrollment have grown substantially. Today, more than 1,000 students are enrolled, and the mean SAT score of the most recently admitted class exceeds 1360.

Our focus on undergraduate education also includes a consolidation of the innovative projects that are part of our Coordinated Undergraduate Education initiative, to facilitate the most effective use of available resources with the greatest benefit to students. Our executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, Selma Botman, will testify about this initiative in greater detail.

Preparation

We know, as you do, that student success in college depends to a great extent on adequate pre-college preparation. CUNY is the largest partner with the New York City Department of Education, and our work with the public schools is helping thousands of students to complete high school and prepare for college. Our College Now program, which is our major collaboration with the Department of Education, continues to offer college-related courses and workshops to students in every public high school. Enrollment jumped 70 percent from 2001 to 2004, and current enrollment exceeds 37,000. Our 15 CUNY-affiliated high schools and our CUNY Prep program for out-of-school youth are also enabling students to understand and be prepared for the challenges of a college curriculum.

The University has also made great progress in managing the establishment of eight new and two re-designed early college high schools of 500 students each, made possible with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The schools will enroll under-prepared students and enable them to develop essential skills so that they can begin taking college courses during high school. The schools are in various stages of development, and you will hear testimony later about the specific progress being made on each. With these schools, and our extensive partnerships with the Department of Education, CUNY will have the most comprehensive network of high school/college collaborations of any public higher education system in the nation.

Teacher Education

Student preparation also depends on excellent teaching. CUNY continues to improve its teacher education programs, recognizing the great need for highly qualified teachers, counselors, and school administrators in New York City. The passing rate of CUNY students in programs requiring the state tests is now 97 percent, the highest since testing began. Expanding the pipeline between our community and senior colleges is a special priority, and we are developing a CUNY-wide articulation program to ensure the smooth transfer of credits, a continued emphasis on meeting accreditation standards, and an adequate supply of faculty.

Additionally, just last year we were pleased to note that the Math Science Partnership, another CUNY/Department of Education collaboration, was awarded $12.5 million over five years to improve K-12 math and science education, an area of particular need. We are acutely aware of such areas of need, and we have begun planning for the CUNY Teachers’ Academy, which will prepare accomplished urban teachers to enter the city’s public schools, especially in the areas of greatest shortage, including math, science, special education, bilingual education, and world languages. Executive Vice Chancellor Botman will speak about the academy in more detail in her testimony.

Qualified Professionals

CUNY continues to respond to the educational needs of the marketplace. We have created the first Graduate School of Journalism at a public university in New York, scheduled to open in Fall 2006. The school’s new dean, former Business Week editor-in-chief and City College alumnus Stephen Shepard, and its top-notch advisory board are currently developing the school’s program and curriculum.

CUNY produces almost half of all newly licensed nurses in New York City. Through our John F. Kennedy, Jr. Institute for Worker Education, we are working to increase the number of nursing faculty, develop new curricula, and improve articulation between programs in order to meet the state’s growing need for nursing professionals. Additionally, in the last decade about 14,000 CUNY students graduated from non-nursing health sciences programs, serving the city as doctors, paramedics, physical therapists, and other health professionals. We are expanding our ability to meet the industry need for educated health-care workers through evening and weekend programs, new courses, and agreements for clinical placements.

CUNY has also instituted a new School of Professional Studies, a nimble way for the University to respond to requests for special programming outside of our formal academic programs. Employers, nonprofit organizations, and city agencies are approaching us to design customized courses of study, including a graduate program in immigrant law, training programs for boards of public authorities, and a certificate in disabilities studies. The school’s programs give graduate and undergraduate credit and are articulated to CUNY degree programs wherever possible.

Affordability

Six of 10 CUNY students come from households earning $30,000 or less. Seven of 10 work part or full time. There can be no question that keeping a quality CUNY education affordable is critically important to the University.

More than 194,000 CUNY students received some form of financial aid in 2003-2004. We are committed to finding the best ways to provide students with information about available financial aid and how to apply for it. We are currently streamlining the financial aid process, utilizing the CUNY portal and other forms of technology for greater accessibility and better management of disbursements.

All of us at CUNY recognize the great demand on state resources, and I have testified previously about our efforts to shore up resources and to create new streams of revenue. This year, we have made significant progress toward that goal. In November, we officially launched the “Campaign for the CUNY Colleges,” CUNY’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. The campaign is aimed at raising $1.2 billion in private funds in the next few years. We also hope to leverage capital expenditures through naming opportunities and other support from the private sector. In the last four years alone, during the campaign’s quiet phase, we have received more than a half a billion dollars. This amplified effort is the first of its kind at CUNY, and will allow us to focus on the scholarships, equipment, research, and facilities our first-rate students and faculty need and deserve.

Effective System

As we seek private funding, we also continue our efforts to maximize current funds through efficiency procedures. By integrating our administrative systems through new information technologies; organizing the colleges into networks to create economies of scale; and establishing individual productivity targets, the University has saved millions of dollars. In 2003 alone, the colleges saved $10 million through a series of targeted measures.

Throughout the University, we are also working to integrate and consolidate services and systems. For example, we are developing a new model for enrollment management that will provide a comprehensive “one-stop” model to better serve students; and we are implementing centralized planning in our Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. These and several other measures, including the CUNY-wide promotion of environmental health and safety, are critical to our ability to run an efficient operation, enabling us to assure the high academic standards our students expect. I am proud of the creative thinking of administrators throughout CUNY who continue to find the most efficient ways of meeting our operating and regulatory requirements.

Members of the board, CUNY today is an energized institution, demonstrated by our commitment to an ambitious plan of strong academic performance and opportunity. Our progress exemplifies our vital role in a statewide system that encourages high achievement by students, an active faculty, and an efficient operation. We have done much with the limited resources we have. But we need the state’s help. We can no longer operate with a “make-do” mentality. We need true investment in CUNY.

A genuine investment in quality would focus on increased funds for facilities, research, faculty, and student support. It would not simply patch holes or staunch bleeding. It would look ahead to the needs of the state, recognize the great progress CUNY has made, and focus on areas of serious investment in CUNY that will yield high returns in the near future. It would position CUNY to be an outstanding public institution for the next century—and CUNY has shown that it is poised to meet that challenge.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and for your continued support of the University.