CUNY Start Awarded $2.5 Million Grant By Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The City University’s CUNY Start program has received a four-year $2.5 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to serve young people coming out of foster care who have remedial needs and want to pursue associate degrees at CUNY. Under terms of the grant, CUNY Start will establish strategic partnerships with foster care agencies and the New York City Administration for Children’s Services to create a pipeline for 325 Transition Aged Youth (TAY) into and through CUNY Start and the University’s acclaimed Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP).

CUNY Start provides intensive preparation in academic reading/writing, math, and other skills necessary for college success. The program enrolls prospective CUNY students who have been accepted to college because they have a high school or high school equivalency diploma, but are not ready for college-level work based on their scores on the CUNY Assessment Tests.

“We’re very pleased to partner with CUNY Start to provide these young people transitioning out of foster care with similar educational opportunities to their peers,” said Steven M. Hilton, Chairman, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “This program allows CUNY an opportunity to engage foster youth during the time they need it most, as young adults seeking to become productive members of our society.”​

Chancellor James B. Milliken stated: “We are profoundly grateful to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for this groundbreaking grant that offers foster youth the chance to succeed at CUNY and pursue meaningful careers.  The CUNY Start program will provide support for this important student population as never before.”

National studies find that just two to seven percent of foster youth complete a two- or four-year degree. CUNY Start will establish a comprehensive, aligned college success program featuring advisement and coaching by an individual adviser knowledgeable in both foster care issues and college navigation; tutoring and academic assistance including pre-college preparation; increased coordination between child welfare and college systems, as well as internships and career opportunities and counseling.

Statewide foster care advocates, such as New York City Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion, have made college success a priority and are also seeking to establish better data collection systems to baseline TAY success in college.

CUNY Start and ASAP, which are recognized as national models thanks to strong outcomes and robust evaluation, make CUNY uniquely positioned to increase college completion success for foster youth.

Under the Hilton Foundation grant, CUNY Start will partner with foster care agencies to create a pipeline into the University.   TAY will benefit from CUNY Start’s ability to help them become fully skills proficient in reading, writing and mathematics, as well as from the program’s comprehensive advisement.

At that point, TAY will enter the University’s ASAP program, which assists students in earning associate degrees within three years.  ASAP provides a range of financial, academic, and personal supports including comprehensive and personalized advisement, career counseling, tutoring, tuition waivers, MTA MetroCards, and textbook vouchers. ASAP also offers course scheduling options to ensure students get the classes they need at convenient times to balance school, work, and personal responsibilities, block scheduled first-year classes with fellow ASAP students, and summer and winter course taking opportunities.  As students approach graduation, they receive special supports to help them transfer to four-year colleges or transition into the workforce, depending on their goals.

A recent study by MDRC, a leading nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, showed ASAP students realized double the graduation rate of similar control group students.  ASAP’s current three-year graduation rate for all cohorts that have graduated to date is 52 percent. The national average graduation rate at urban institutions is 16 percent. ASAP students graduate at more than three times the national average for urban community colleges, and President Obama has recognized the program as a national model for improving success in community colleges.

With funding from the Hilton Foundation, CUNY Start and ASAP will also develop specialized training modules for advisers to provide a full understanding of the needs of foster-care students, how the child welfare system works, where its gaps are and how CUNY can help. Since TAY need an income, CUNY Start and ASAP will provide them with MetroCards even before they matriculate, as well as on-campus jobs.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance use, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $100 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2014. The Foundation’s current assets are approximately $2.5 billion. For more information, please visit

About The City University of New York: The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY 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 more than 274,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, 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. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via, the University’s website.