State Approves CUNY’s New Community College

September 29, 2011 | The University

Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved creation of The New Community College – CUNY’s seventh community college and the University’s first new college in more than four decades – in a Sept. 20 letter to Education Commissioner John B. King Jr., Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has announced.

This clears the way for the first students to start next fall in space across from Manhattan’s Bryant Park. Earlier, the state Board of Regents had recommended that the governor endorse the amendment to City University of New York’s long-range master plan, which was needed to start the college. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an early supporter of creating the new college, included funds in successive budgets not only for planning, but also for expanding a full-time program to fast-track community college students toward degrees – a program that is now integral to the school.

The New Community College is designed to be a small, experimental school that tests novel approaches to associate-level education. Two prime goals undergird the college: First, to move students toward completion of associate degrees much faster and at far higher percentages than is typical of community colleges in the city and the nation. Second, to do that in a way that can be replicated by other colleges, which, particularly since the onset of the Great Recession, have been overwhelmed by both demand for training and retraining and by lagging graduation rates.

“Our New Community College reimagines how a student engages and traverses through the experience at a community college,” Chancellor Goldstein said. “Our goal is to improve students’ graduation rates, maintain academic integrity and quality, and launch these students into the next phases of their lives.”

Founding President Scott Evenbeck, whom CUNY’s Board of Trustees appointed in late 2010 following a national search, said, “We are finding strong support and helpful collaboration across CUNY’s other campuses and are excited to be making preparations to greet our first entering class next year. With the governor’s approval, we will begin recruitment of prospective students, including information sessions with them and their family members about the city-centered courses here at The New Community College.”

The college has hired a core faculty, who are refining an innovative curriculum that was two years in the making by panels of faculty members from across the University. The core faculty members are teaching at the University’s other community colleges while waiting for The New Community College to open. The college also has hired essential administrators.

The notion of replication – of scaling up from experimental success – was a key theme of a national conference on community college innovation that CUNY hosted last week. The Sept. 23 event, which drew educators from 26 states and the District of Columbia, re-examined the mission, structures and practices of community colleges.

Nationwide, just 22 percent of students overall – and only 16 percent in urban community colleges – earn degrees within three years. The conference took place against the backdrop of President Obama’s call for 5 million more community college graduates, as well as ambitious targets for improvement set by the American Association of Community Colleges and The College Board.

Work on the new college began in 2007, when Chancellor Goldstein asked John Mogulescu, senior University dean for academic affairs and dean of the School of Professional Studies, to plan for a differently structured school to boost graduation rates. Tracy Meade directed that effort, which captured the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and the Carnegie Corp.

Mayor Bloomberg’s Gateway to the Middle Class plan specifically endorsed the University’s new model. In 2009, he included funding for planning in his commitment to spend $50 million over four years at CUNY’s community colleges to increase the city’s skilled labor force and bring more residents into the middle class.  He also included $6.5 million a year for CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) to fast-track students toward their associate degrees.

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 has 23 institutions: 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 269,300 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.