“CUNY Start” Immersion for Freshman Applicants

With record enrollments that are projected to increase to 267,000 degree students in the fall, the City University of New York is creating a college preparation “immersion” initiative for community college applicants who are waiting to enroll but need to prepare for college-level work.

Beginning in Fall 2010, CUNY Start will provide 130 hours (over 13 weeks) of instruction for applicants who are wait-listed for enrollment and whose test scores indicate the need for remedial instruction in either math or reading and writing. Applicants participating in CUNY Start are guaranteed acceptance into a college in January 2011 at the start of the spring semester.

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, in remarks to the Board of Trustees that were podcasted to the University community, said the primary goal of the new initiative is “to further the progress of these students and avoid any slowdown of their academic momentum.”

“We will monitor the program accordingly and make adjustments as required,” said Chancellor Goldstein.

Ydanis Rodriguez, New York City Council member and Chair of the Higher Education Committee, said:  “While we would prefer that all qualified applicants on the waiting list be admitted to CUNY as quickly as possible,  this new, low-cost alternative is the right thing to do.  The additional help provided by CUNY Start will ensure greater student success in college.”

CUNY Start students who complete the program will need little or no college preparatory coursework upon enrollment in a community college. By taking more college level courses at the start of their college career, they will also improve their chances for a timely graduation.  Traditionally, first-time freshmen at the community colleges take one or more remedial courses, and those courses are not counted toward their college degree.

Beyond a chance to enhance their basic skills in advance of enrolling in college, program participants will benefit from academic advisement services through CUNY Start.

With enrollment expected to climb to nearly 267,000 this fall, the University has instituted a waiting list for available seats for the first time in its history. In doing so, said Chancellor Goldstein, the University “joins the mainstream of highly regarded universities that routinely employ waiting lists in order to manage the available space.”

In past years, late applicants were accepted into the community colleges through the first day of class. But with two-year college enrollment growing by more than 40 percent since 2000, the University has sought new ways to maintain rigorous academic standards and to enhance its historic mission during this period of unprecedented growth.

Starting in fall 2009, high school guidance counselors and prospective students, especially in the city’s public schools, were advised of a Feb. 1, 2010, application deadline; thereafter, admissions to the colleges were to be reviewed on a space-available basis. By late April 2010, the University had received more than 70,000 applications for fall 2010 — more than the number received during the entire 2009 application period — and announced that applications received after May 7 would go to a waiting list. By the second week of June, approximately 2,460 students had submitted their applications after the May 7 deadline.

Some wait-listed students will be permitted to enroll in fall 2010, according to Alexandra W. Logue, executive vice chancellor and University provost. Late applicants who need to further prepare for college-level work will be directed to burnish their skills in CUNY Start.

CUNY Start is modeled on the highly successful CUNY Language Immersion,  a program offered to immigrants and non-English speakers who are seeking to improve their English-language skills before enrolling into a community college, and the College Transition Initiative,  which offers an intensive pre-college math, academic reading/writing and college advisement program to prepare GED graduates for a successful transition to college level studies.

CUNY Start will provide ten hours a week of instruction over thirteen weeks to eligible students starting in early September through December in either pre-college math or academic reading and writing, depending upon the results of CUNY assessment testing. A modest fee will be charged, comparable with the existing Language Immersion Program and the College Transition Initiative where New York residents pay $75.  On and off-campus space will be utilized, and day, evening and weekend courses are expected to be offered.

The advisement component will assist participants in matching their career goals to CUNY’s academic offerings, and inform them of special services and opportunities at CUNY such as ASAP, a special accelerated associate degree program, for which they may be eligible. At the conclusion of the semester in December, participants will be retested on the CUNY Assessment Tests to determine their progress.

The CUNY Office of Academic Affairs will provide oversight of CUNY Start, to be offered at Hostos and Borough of Manhattan Community Colleges, through existing Continuing Education schools. The CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment will evaluate student achievement data to determine the effectiveness of the intervention in reducing the amount of remediation needed by CUNY Start participants.

The moves come as recessionary economic conditions continue– spurring a variety of proactive steps to meet continuing strong demand for a seat at CUNY, while maintaining the academic quality for which the University is again being recognized and celebrated.

Between fall 2008 and fall 2009, the headcount in credit-bearing courses jumped by more than 6 percent. Since the University began marketing its summer offerings in 2008, summer enrollment has jumped by 7.1 percent. And since 1999, enrollment at the six community colleges, one of the city’s best workforce development engines, has soared by 43 percent.

The increasing enrollments go hand in hand with the University’s successful efforts to raise the academic bar at all of the colleges through innovative programs, upgrading of campuses, a focus on science and recruitment of outstanding full-time faculty.

Plans are proceeding for an innovative new community college designed to improve graduation rates. The new college, to be temporarily housed in leased space on West 40th Street and eventually situated near the John Jay College campus on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, would receive $9 million under the proposed 2010-2011 City Executive Budget for lease and faculty costs; significant private support is expected soon, according to the Chancellor. A search for the new college’s founding president is under way.

For academic year 2009-2010, CUNY students received about $950 million in total aid — grants, loans and work-study — from federal, state, city and institutional sources. That included an estimated $472.1 million in federal Pell grants and $185 million in New York State Tuition Assistance Program funds, all earmarked for the lowest- income students and continuing to make a CUNY education remarkably accessible. Pell aid has nearly doubled for CUNY students since 2006-2007.

To meet the needs of its burgeoning enrollment with quality academics and to continue to attract accomplished faculty and high achieving students, the University has been upgrading and expanding campus facilities — about half of them science related — across the city. CUNY has 11 major projects — about 1.8 million square feet of space expected to open by 2013 — including the Advanced Science Research Center on the City College campus; the Hunter College School of Social Work building in Harlem; and a new classroom building at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. The University is likely to spend about $420 million on capital projects in 2011, down from $600 million this year, and some $2 billion worth of construction is in the pipeline and $1.2 billion in planning stages.

Though some planned construction may be delayed due to city and state budgetary constraints, the University’s public projects are bolstering the economy, providing work to a local construction industry hard hit by a sharp decline in private projects. CUNY projects are also benefiting from a 10 percent to 20 percent drop in construction costs.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847 as The Free Academy, the University’s 23 institutions include 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves 260,000 academic credit students and 269,808 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program for 32,500 high school students, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. More than 1 million visitors and 2 million page views are served each month by www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.