More Graduates,Top Rankings for Social Mobility and Debt-Free Education

More graduates, more degrees granted, more high-achieving students, persistent strong enrollments and a shower of prestigious rankings and faculty and student honors all define The City University of New York.

With nearly 273,000 degree-credit students entering in Fall 2016, CUNY enrollments remain at record and near-record highs, reflecting enduring demand for the University’s high-quality, affordable academic opportunities and the appeal of studying in the nation’s most intellectually and dynamic urban environment.

The trends include strong interest from high-achieving students, according to University data: Over the five years from Fall 2012 to Fall 2016, undergraduate enrollment at the highly selective colleges -— Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens — held steady or posted increases. And Baruch, City and Hunter saw dramatic increases in average entering freshman SAT scores.

This academic year, the University continues to expand and refine programs such as CUNY Start, which improves incoming community college students’ college readiness skills as they prepare to enter associate degree programs, and ASAP, which has remarkably increased retention and graduation rates at the community colleges.

“CUNY’s fundamental mission of providing affordable, high-quality education is more important now than ever, and the opportunity for so many of our students to graduate debt-free is key to their success after college,” said Chancellor James B. Milliken. “Our students learn from outstanding faculty and compete successfully with students everywhere, and they do this without the financial burden and long-term debt that many of their peers at other institutions incur.

“The combination of low tuition and federal, state and other financial aid programs position many CUNY students to enter the job market or graduate and professional schools with little or no federal debt. This is obviously a great advantage and one that we are committed to maintaining,” the Chancellor said.

A penetrating new study has quantified how effectively CUNY fulfills that mission by opening the door for extraordinary numbers of New Yorkers to move from lower income levels to the middle class and above.

The report led by Stanford economist Raj Chetty on intergenerational mobility is based on nationwide college data and is the latest in the Equality of Opportunity Project, an effort involving various collaborators including Chetty, Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren, and Brown economist John Friedman to conduct economic research for policies that can promote upward mobility.

As a New York Times columnist writing about the study summed it up, “The new data shows, for example, that the City University of New York system propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined.”

In another report, the Social Mobility Index by CollegeNET, an educational services company that focuses on economic mobility, three CUNY colleges were ranked among the country’s top 10 schools for improving low-income students’ educational and job prospects. Five others ranked in the top 10 percent.

City College was recognized as the most military-friendly in the nation, and CUNY colleges were also spotlighted in publications including Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and the Wall Street Journal. Three colleges were ranked among the top 10 colleges, out of 300 nationwide, identified by the Student Loan Report as graduating students with the lowest debt; three other CUNY schools were in the top 30.

Increased Enrollment and Graduation Rates

CUNY School of Law’s Fall 2016 enrollment saw a 27.8 percent increase in the number of first-year students: 193 entered, compared with 151 in 2015. The jump came as New York State’s 15 law schools posted a flat overall enrollment this year.

The number of CUNY graduates – and the number of degrees granted – increased to record levels in 2015-2016. There were 49,457 graduates in 2015-2016 compared with 47,620 the previous year. The number of degrees granted also bumped up, to 50,022 from 48,125 in 2014-2015. The number of baccalaureate degrees awarded to students graduating from CUNY’s five highly selective colleges showed a significant increase from 2010-2011 to 2014-2015.

Graduation rates are also on the upswing. Associate degree three-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time CUNY community college students increased significantly — by 4.2 points — from the 2011 to 2012 freshman cohorts, the largest year-to-year change in 20 years. At the University’s highly selective Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter and Queens colleges, graduation rates also reflected an increase for the fall freshman cohorts from 2005 to 2009.

Among the students entering CUNY colleges, two-thirds are transfers, including those transferring between CUNY schools and a significant number transferring from outside the University. Students transferring to CUNY from other institutions numbered 6,732 in Fall 2015.  More than 375 transferred to CUNY from a wide range of selective private institutions, including highly selective University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Brown, Yale, Georgetown, Swarthmore, Tufts, Vassar and New York University.

An Affordable, Transformative Value

A CUNY education remains remarkably affordable compared with the cost of public and private higher education in the New York metropolitan area and nationwide. CUNY’s senior college tuition is among the lowest nationally. And because so many low-income CUNY students are eligible for full financial aid, their tuition bills are low to nonexistent.

Sixty-five percent of full-time, in-state CUNY undergraduates attend tuition-free due to a combination of federal Pell grants, New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) awards, scholarships and federal tax credits, University data show.

CUNY students also have far less education debt than other students. Eight in 10 students graduating from CUNY colleges carry no federal education debt, while more than 43 million borrowers nationwide hold an estimated $1.3 trillion in debt.

CUNY’s status as one of the country’s top universities for graduating students debt-free was recently affirmed by The Student Loan Report website. It ranked 300 public and private colleges across the country whose graduates had the lowest student debt. Three CUNY schools — Queens, York and Baruch — were in the top 10 of low-debt schools and another three — Brooklyn, City and Lehman — were among the top 30.

Baruch, City and Queens colleges were ranked among the top 10 in the country in educating low-income students and graduating them into solid careers, according to CollegeNET’s Social Mobility Index.

The index identifies colleges and universities best at educating students with family incomes below the national median, and at lower tuitions that allow them to graduate into good jobs while burdened with less debt. Baruch took the top spot, City ranked ninth, Queens 10th, and five other CUNY colleges were in the index’s top 10 percent: College of Staten Island (16), Hunter (19), Brooklyn (24), Lehman (65) and John Jay College of Criminal Justice (86).

Three CUNY schools, Baruch, Queens and Hunter, are also ranked among the “best values in public colleges” in the Feb. 2017 Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, which is available online. And Macaulay Honors College was recognized in an unranked Kiplinger’s list of 16 tuition-free colleges

Top Rankings and Honors

In other notable CUNY college recognitions, City College was lauded as the nation’s most military-friendly campus among public institutions with more than 10,000 students, by Victory Media, which specializes in services for veterans.

It awarded CCNY its Top 10 Gold award for 2017 based on public information and personal data provided by students who are veterans. “Veterans are looking for a hand up, not a hand out,” said Victory Media founder and Chairman Chris Hale, who praised CCNY’s leadership in “creating great opportunities for what I would call our next greatest generation.”

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education survey ranked two colleges as among the top 10 in the city overall and the top two for “providing a learning environment for all students” and attracting a “diverse student body and faculty.” The survey listed Baruch and City colleges among the finest of 27 New York City colleges it analyzed, and the only two public institutions.

The Journal’s website said it used “clear performance indicators” to answer the most important questions facing students: “Does the college have sufficient resources to teach me properly? Will I be engaged, and challenged, by my teacher and classmates? Does the college have a good academic reputation? What type of campus community is there? How likely am I to graduate, pay off my loans and get a good job?”

Prestigious academic awards continue to roll in for CUNY students. A 2016 Marshall Scholarship — an academic honor considered on par with the Rhodes Scholarship — was awarded to Hunter College senior Faiza Masood, who is one of the nation’s 40 recipients of the elite scholarships and the seventh CUNY student winner in the scholarship’s six decade history. She will continue her studies in Great Britain to earn a master’s degree in Islamic law focusing on how the religion can adapt to modern societies.

Other prestigious national academic honors include Fulbright awards for teaching and research abroad and National Science Foundation grants.

In addition, two CUNY School of Law students have been awarded post- graduate fellowships by the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Described as “a legal Peace Corps,” Skadden Fellowships are awarded for two years to law students committed to public interest work. Twelve CUNY Law graduates have served as Skadden Fellows.

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 School of Medicine, 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 and Health Policy. The University serves more than 274,350 degree-seeking students and 260,000 adult and continuing 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 and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.