October 12, 2016
Many CUNY students, faculty and staff are mourning and in shock in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which killed more than 1,000 people as it carved a path of devastation across the Caribbean, including Haiti, and the southern United States. On behalf of the University, I extend our deep concern and condolences to everyone in the CUNY community who is affected by this disaster.
Our campuses are offering counseling and other direct support to students, faculty and staff, even as we work with the University community to assist the victims. Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Chris Rosa is leading this University-wide effort. We urge everyone at CUNY to generously contribute their time, energy and financial support in this evolving effort.
October 08, 2016
Dear Members of the City College Community,
On Friday, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Lisa Coico as President of the City College of New York, effective immediately. I named Interim Provost Mary Erina Driscoll as Administrator in Charge, pending the appointment of an Interim President at the October 26 meeting of the City University of New York Board of Trustees. We will also soon launch a national search for a new President.
The City College of New York is a remarkable institution with a rich history and a very promising future. I can assure you that the Board of Trustees and I are focused on the steps necessary to ensure that CCNY continues to serve its students and the people of New York at the highest level. I know the devoted faculty, staff, students and alumni of City College share this goal, and I look forward to working with you.
James B. Milliken
September 16, 2016
Thank you very much, Steve. I am deeply grateful to New Yorkers for Children and your executive director, Saroya Friedman-Gonzalez, for what is a very special honor—for The City University of New York and for me—named for a person who defines the term “public servant.” I am fortunate to be the leader of an institution that has always done so much for New York and now is in a position to make such a difference in furthering the remarkable work begun by Nick Scoppetta. I like to think that as an alumnus of City College, Nick would be especially proud of our work together.
I am also fortunate that I had the opportunity to meet Nick last year at this very event and to thank him for his tremendous leadership. He taught all of us that one of our greatest callings is to create opportunities and support for children who, through no fault of their own, have not had stable homes but who, like all of us, have dreams. Today, with our extraordinary partners, CUNY is providing support on an unprecedented scale. And we’re doing it because like all of you, we see the enormous potential in the young people we’re serving. I know you will join me in expressing admiration for all the foster youth with us this evening, including 10 CUNY Youth Ambassadors.
This work is an important part of what CUNY is all about. Our mission, begun nearly 170 years ago, is to provide access to the highest quality education to hundreds of thousands of students each year, most of whom are low income, from underrepresented groups, often immigrants, and the first in their family to attend college. Over 60 percent of New York City high school graduates who go on to college choose CUNY, and it is our goal to provide each with the education and opportunity they need to be successful. Through CUNY, our students will build great careers and contribute to making this city vibrant and successful.
CUNY has been expanding opportunities to foster youth on many fronts. With First Star, we formed the first program in New York State, at our College of Staten Island, for an academy that will bring 9th graders in the foster system to campus and provide mentoring, life skills and academic training…all as a way of introducing them to college life over a 4 year period. This is critical because, as many of you know, fewer than half of foster youth complete high school and less than 3 percent finish college. We’re going to correct that. An important part of how we do that is by exposing kids to the great opportunities possible for them. We’re especially pleased that the First Star academy is supported by New Yorkers For Children, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
Working with ACS, we have established a brand new college success initiative that provides foster youth one of their most precious needs, year-round housing. We have established places for 50 students from the New York City foster care system and the first group has just moved into handsome dorm rooms this fall at Queens College and the College of Staten Island. Macy’s has stepped up once again, helping to outfit their rooms. New York Foundling is a critical partner, helping with important wrap-around services. We look forward to significant expansion of this unprecedented array of services and housing in future years.
With support from the State of New York, we are also providing structured support to 70 foster youth enrolled in our SEEK/College Discovery program. They receive everything from MetroCards to meal vouchers to emergency funding when problems arise. Our CUNY Start program provides intensive preparation for high school students on their way to CUNY, and guides them into one of the most revolutionary success initiatives in the country, which we call ASAP. This program has tripled community college graduation rates, and with the Hilton Foundation as a partner, we provide special services and support to foster youth entering 8 of our colleges. It places them on a path of success.
These programs and others further CUNY’s unique mission, and, of course, they depend on the passion and commitment of our faculty and staff, the enthusiastic and generous support of our partners, and the steady leadership from our Board of Trustees.
It takes a village to make all of this happen. I get to work every day with talented, committed people who make CUNY’s magic possible. Donna Linderman, University Dean for Student Success Initiatives, Judy Bergtraum, Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction, and Andrea Shapiro Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Development, and many others — all have played a key role in making possible the new initiatives at CUNY for foster youth. And we couldn’t do this without the enthusiastic commitment of campus leaders, and I want to recognize several with us tonight: President Felix Matos Rodriquez and Richard Alvarez, Vice President of Enrollment and Retention at Queens College and Jennifer Borrero, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services at the College of Staten Island.
We could not do this work without the strong support of the CUNY Board of Trustees, and I’m delighted that two of our Board members, Sandra Wilkin and Rita Di Martino, are with us tonight. And a person I never introduce—because she forbids it—is my wife. I’m going to make an exception because I’m not sure CUNY and I would be where we are today had Susan Burden not convinced her when we moved back to New York that she should join the NYFC Board. Nana Smith.
Tonight’s honor both recognizes CUNY’s commitment to foster youth and encourages us to do more for a wonderful, deserving group of young people. On behalf of my many committed colleagues at CUNY and our terrific foster youth students, I thank you.
September 06, 2016
Every fall, we start the new school year with a wonderful sense of possibility. This year the promise of the year ahead is great and our sense of purpose stronger than ever as we take important steps to renew CUNY’s essential mission with a new vision and a set of strategies to become the model for a 21st Century university. The new CUNY we are shaping together is even more focused on supporting the success of our students – both in the classroom and after – on giving our outstanding faculty more opportunities to engage in innovative teaching and important research, scholarly and creative activity, and on developing new and deeper connections in the city, state and world and with institutions that can help us accomplish our goals. The 21st Century CUNY will be more connected across campuses, with the city and its institutions, with the workplaces offering the most promising career opportunities, and with other universities and institutions across the globe.
My optimism results partly from the very positive steps we have taken in recent months, which strengthen CUNY significantly. We settled our labor contracts this summer with faculty and staff, agreeing on well-deserved raises for the people responsible for the great work CUNY does every day. I realize there is frustration over the time it will take to fully implement the new contract ratified by the PSC in August, but I hope you understand that no one wants to see this completed more than the Board of Trustees, the college presidents and me. We worked hard to resolve contracts that were six and seven years overdue and it is in everyone’s interest to work together to ensure that CUNY’s faculty and staff receive the increases they earned. We are working closely with the State Comptroller and the City Payroll Office to make this happen. The settlements and implementation are critical milestones, and I hope our success will reinforce our work together for a common mission.
I’m very pleased to have named new leadership this summer at Lehman College and Brooklyn College, and at the CUNY Law School and at Macaulay Honors College. In each case we are in a great position to build on a foundation of excellent leadership, while also bringing new thinking and energy.
This fall marks the launch of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy in Harlem and also the opening of the CUNY School of Medicine at City College, building on the years of success of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. These programs fit well with our mission, significantly increasing diversity in the education and training in health professions and promising to bring improved health care and policy to all parts of our city. We continue to strengthen our role in the sciences and technology, increasing the number of students declaring those majors and recruiting outstanding new faculty at the colleges and at the Advanced Science Research Center. We’re understandably proud of the fact that CUNY went from 7 to 17 campuses that have been designated “military friendly,” a solid reflection of our commitment to supporting veterans and making us the only system-wide military friendly university in the country.
We came through a particularly inspiring commencement season last spring, with record numbers of graduates. It was a singular honor to have Michelle Obama give her final commencement address as First Lady at City College, but I was just as impressed by the caliber of the student leaders at our colleges and their addresses. Those students spoke movingly, with the kind of insights and maturity that I identify with our wonderfully talented and diverse student body. And our faculty collected an impressive and growing number of prestigious awards, fellowships and scholarships. I am continually reminded of the character, drive and creativity of our students and the outstanding faculty who help them achieve their goals.
I am particularly pleased that we will have the opportunity with a new Master Plan and Strategic Framework to help chart CUNY’s future, and I believe we will look back on this as a pivotal year. What we are referring to as “Connected CUNY” will place greater emphasis on outcomes and the success of our students as well as on our ability to contribute to our goals by leveraging CUNY’s great assets. We plan to employ strategies that will help us get much more out of our resources and facilities to deliver greater benefits for our students and our city and state, and we will collaborate with other institutions in new ways. Some examples of our plans include:
– We know that in the knowledge economy many of the most promising careers require a diploma or other credential, including associates and baccalaureate degrees and certificates. We will build on successful initiatives and launch others to sharply increase graduation rates. This includes the highly successful ASAP at community colleges, and similar programs at senior colleges—piloted last year at John Jay College—as well as other proven strategies adopted at individual colleges.
– Important research—some done at CUNY—as well as best practices adopted around the country required that we reexamine our policies and practices in remedial education, and University Provost Rabinowitz has led a university-wide task force that is developing compelling recommendations to improve our programs and assist our students.
– We are focused as never before on increasing opportunities for our students to participate in internships and other experiential learning programs to improve employment prospects upon graduation. Among our priorities will be opportunities in growth areas in technology, healthcare, finance and the arts.
– We will expand the availability of online courses and degrees offered by CUNY faculty. Participation in online education will continue to increase and it’s important to New York and our students that CUNY faculty offer high quality programs in this environment. We have had recent success on which to build; this summer the bachelor’s program at the School of Professional Studies was cited as the number one online program in the state and among the top 12 in the country.
– We will increase our focus on adult learners, building programs to bring them back to college and offering courses and credentials that will help them advance their careers. There are about a million city residents with some college credits but no degree, and CUNY must be the key to their getting the credentials that will provide greater economic opportunity.
– We will be expanding opportunities for study abroad and other programs that provide our students with the education and experiences that will prepare them to be competitive in the global economy.
– We are implementing plans to increase our competitiveness for outstanding graduate students and we will invest in support for faculty research and creative activity.
To achieve these and other important objectives, CUNY will work to increase collaboration and cooperation among our colleges, as well as with other institutions that share our goals. To best serve our students, we will work to eliminate barriers to the movement of students among our colleges, including students using ePermit to earn credit at CUNY colleges other than their home campuses. As part of this effort, we are launching the first online, searchable, CUNY-wide course catalogue.
More needs to be done to ensure that all New Yorkers, especially those from low income and underrepresented groups, are given equal opportunities for success and are well prepared for college. To achieve this, we plan to strengthen our collaborations between CUNY and early education programs in the city as well as the public schools to help ensure that students who wish to attend college are ready to do so. We will build on the deep connections CUNY has with the city’s Department of Education and we will continue to provide many of the teachers who can help realize these goals. We are engaging more closely with major employers and labor unions to ensure that CUNY prepares students with the education and skills needed to launch satisfying careers.
CUNY has a compelling case for stronger fiscal support from both city and state; at the same time we have an obligation to maximize the public investment in the university. We will continue the effort we began last year to ensure that we are cost-effective in our administrative operations and that our business processes are designed to best support the core academic and student success activities of the university. We have had much success in developing shared administrative and support services across the university, something more achievable at CUNY than most large systems in part because of the proximity of our colleges. And a key strategy to help support students, faculty and academic programs will be the implementation of plans to significantly increase our success in private fundraising.
Of course, these ambitious goals and others will take commitment, resources and time, but the CUNY community will start to feel the impact of our Connected CUNY strategies soon. I am excited about the future of CUNY, an institution that has throughout its history provided the pathway to a better life for generations of New Yorkers and immeasurably improved our city, our state and the country.
I look forward to working with you on our exciting agenda for the years ahead. Best wishes for a successful new year at The City University of New York.
James B. Milliken
August 11, 2016
I want to begin by thanking everyone here for joining us for this 8th annual event. Two years ago, shortly after joining CUNY, I kicked off this conference. Today, looking at the progress we’ve made, I am proud of what we’ve all accomplished together since that time.
This is a wonderful opportunity for you to get to know us and for us to get to know you and your businesses. You are part of the lifeblood of this university and this city. Your hard work and your contributions make us more successful in what we do, so we appreciate all the energy and ideas you bring to us and we hope we make you more successful and prosperous. You are important partners in the growth and success of New York City’s flagship university, and we’re proud to be pushing ahead and growing together.
I want add my thanks to the important speakers and members of the CUNY community with us today, beginning with the new chairman of our Board of Trustees, Bill Thompson, the acting chair of the construction fund, Philip Berry, Alphonso David, the Counsel to the Governor, and Rodneyse Bichotte, the very talented and incredibly energetic Assemblywoman from Brooklyn and the first Haitian-American woman elected to public office in the city as well as chairperson of the Oversight of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Subcommittee.
We’re delighted to be holding this event in this lovely CUNY space and I want to thank our friends at John Jay for hosting us. And a special thanks to Matt Sapienza and Judy Bergtraum, and their teams, two CUNY leaders who have played such an important role in our unwavering commitment to do more business with minority, women, and service-disabled veteran-owned enterprises.
Ensuring that we expand our relationships with enterprises owned by minorities, women, and service-disabled veterans is a high priority for Governor Cuomo, and we share his commitment to this critical objective. The goals he established will lead to a fairer and more equitable city economy in which those who are capable, competitive, innovative and committed will enjoy opportunities to shine and prosper. Your success certainly helps CUNY reach its goals of operating in an efficient and cost-effective manner so that we can focus on delivering on our very important mission – giving all New Yorkers the opportunity to obtain a high quality education and fulfill their dreams. When you do well all of New York does well.
Our goal is to expand the work we do with you, to increase our networks of suppliers and to find more local businesses that we can work with and support. We benefit from your quality and efficiency. CUNY has always been integral to this city, not just on a macro level, but deep down into dozens and dozens of neighborhoods. Our partnerships with you strengthen those community bonds and provide mutual benefits. Not only does that support the growth of all of our neighborhoods, but your growth, of course, creates what we hope will be lots of new jobs, providing opportunities for talented CUNY graduates who can help you build world-class businesses. That’s a combination of talent – your expertise and the skills and energy of our graduates – that I like.
I want to give a shout out to two colleges in this campaign — Hunter College and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. These colleges have led the way in building strong relationships with minority and women-owned businesses and succeeded in being leaders in CUNY’s supplier diversity program. And we’re proud of a similar story in CUCF’s capital program. The University and the Fund are committed to meeting CUNY, CUCF, and the Governor’s MWBE participation goals.
Thank you again for working with us to achieve these important goals. Thank you for competing hard for this partnership and for joining us in expanding our relationship in the future. Thank you for being here today to help celebrate our program and build a foundation for even greater success. Best wishes for a great day. Thanks and good luck.
June 12, 2016
We are all heartbroken over the horrible tragedy that took place earlier today in Orlando. The hate that led to the senseless killing and wounding of so many innocent people is almost impossible to comprehend. The victims and their families and friends are in our thoughts and hearts. We will lower the flags across The City University of New York as we join so many others in mourning this terrible loss.
James B. Milliken
The City University of New York
May 29, 2016
Today’s New York Times story, “Dreams Stall as CUNY, New York City’s Engine of Mobility, Sputters”, reports on funding challenges faced by the City University of New York, similar to those faced at many public universities across the nation.
It’s true that CUNY’s funding has not kept up with growth of over 50,000 students in the last ten years. And CUNY faculty and staff have worked for more than six years without raises, which certainly harms morale. That’s why funding a fair contract for 45,000 faculty and staff who serve our students every day is our highest priority.
And yes, at an institution with aging infrastructure, there is a long list of critical maintenance needs. These issues clearly deserve the attention of policy makers and CUNY leadership.
The full CUNY story, however, goes well beyond important facility, maintenance and even budget issues. CUNY’s focus has always been on outcomes for our students and the people of New York, and on that score there is much today that is positive.
CUNY is among the most accessible and affordable university systems in the country, offering a high quality education to the most diverse student body anywhere. CUNY’s enrollment is at record levels with nearly 275,000 students seeking degrees, and over another 250,000 students in non-degree adult and continuing education. Fortunately, dreams are not stalled for so many of these CUNY students, and here are some of the reasons why:
- Seven of 10 full-time undergraduates attend tuition-free because they qualify for state and federal financial aid. 80 percent of our undergraduates who obtain degrees have zero federal student loan debt. Few universities can claim that record.
- Washington Monthly magazine has consistently ranked CUNY colleges among those offering the “Best Bang for the Buck” in the nation. Graduation rates University-wide for the most recent classes are up, and we have nearly tripled graduation rates at our community colleges for those enrolled in CUNY’s innovative ASAP program.
- CUNY students earn the most prestigious national honors in great numbers, with more than 50 Fulbrights in the past 3 years, as well as Rhodes, Goldwater and Truman Scholarships. In 2016 alone, CUNY students received 10 National Science Foundation Research Grants, 13 Fulbright Fellowships and three Goldwater Scholarships, among many others. Our alumni have received more MacArthur “Genius” awards than any public university other than Berkeley.
- Our faculty are the recipients of hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants and have been honored with Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, MacArthur awards and many more
When First Lady Michelle Obama addresses students at City College this week, she will look upon faces from every corner of the world—40 percent of CUNY’s undergraduates are born in another country—and address them at a new venue in the heart of Harlem. State-of-the-art science education and research centers anchoring CCNY’s South Campus will be next door.
Yes, our buildings need more attention, our faculty and staff desperately need a new contract, and CUNY must improve its funding situation with both public and private support. But there is much good news at this most remarkable institution that educates almost three times the 100,000 degree-seeking students it served in 1967. CUNY is serving more students than ever before and remains an engine of mobility, or as alumnus Andy Grove put it, “the American Dream Machine”.
James B. Milliken, Chancellor<
The City University of New York
May 12, 2016
Text of Chancellor Remarks at 2016 American Energy & Manufacturing Competitiveness (AEMC) Summit
City College of New York, Great Hall
Thank you, Deborah [Wince-Smith] and thank you all for joining us at this year’s AEMC Summit, which has a full agenda of timely, important discussions of the steps being taken–and needed next–to build sustainability into our economy and build a real clean energy future. The promise of clean, sustainable energy and the resilient manufacturing economy that depends on it was once a distant, often considered unattainable, goal.
But far-sighted policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, scientists, academic researchers and their supporters – many of you in this room today — had a different idea. So here we are, gathering at City College to talk about the next phases in the well-advanced transformation of our energy economy. To which I say, thank you for ignoring the naysayers and doing the things that always have and always will make America great — innovate, persist, rely on the evidence and keep your eye on the big picture and the goal.
CUNY is the largest urban university system in the country and your presence here is a symbol of our long dedication to researching and addressing critical urban challenges. You may know that this university, dating to 1847 and now comprising over 500,000 degree seeking and continuing education students, is the alma mater of 13 Nobel Prize Winners and more MacArthur Geniuses than any public university other than Berkeley. Among the alumni of this college alone are Jonas Salk, Andy Grove and Colin Powell, all who have left important legacies here.
CUNY has an important role to play in guiding our country, and our economy, toward more innovative practices and especially in rethinking our energy systems. We have been a leader in tackling major urban policy issues, including public health concerns, education, law enforcement and expanding the knowledge economy.
We are especially pleased to be hosting this event, and appreciate the participation and support of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Council on Competitiveness, because at CUNY we have been among those working hard to build the foundations of a clean energy future.
We formed our CUNY Energy Institute in 2008 to pursue advanced, inter-disciplinary research. We draw our faculty from many fields and many of our campuses. Among the subjects the institute focuses on are power conversion technologies, expanding wind and solar capacity through the development of grid-scale batteries, and technologies for improving the safety and performance of nuclear power reactors. Importantly, the institute relies on collaborations with other institutions, building the types of partnerships that are important to much good scientific work and that are a big priority at CUNY. Our Energy Institute partners with Stony Brook, SUNY Albany, Columbia, NYU and other universities, as well as Brookhaven National Laboratories, Argonne, Los Alamos and other national research enterprises.
We also believe strongly in teaming up with the private sector and transforming ideas into businesses when possible. We are proud of the fact that, in 2013, the Secretary of Energy joined us as the energy institute spun out Urban Electric Power Inc. as one of those businesses; it manufactures energy storage systems and is expecting to double its staff from 20 to 40 next year.
Among other important innovations at CUNY is the Solar Map designed in partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. CUNY’s NYSolar Smart program has developed this extremely useful tool to accelerate solar installations by giving the market a wealth of data and advice on ways to reduce installation costs and overcome regulatory hurdles. At a university with outstanding PhD programs as well as community colleges, we also have programs for training installers. It has been an extraordinary success in New York City, where solar installations have soared since we released this tool, and we are now on the verge of rolling out a New York State version with the partnership of state agencies and the welcome leadership of Governor Cuomo. Deepening CUNY’s connections with industry and government is a necessary part of our strategy for helping solve large and difficult problems. That will give us the reach to become even more deeply involved in the transformation of this sector.
I expect that those of you at this event will cite additional impressive success stories and more in the pipeline, and it is my hope that you will leave here with new ideas and energy for the important work ahead. We are proud to be joining with you on this journey.
Thank you again for ignoring the skeptics and doing the great work of transforming our energy economy, and good luck in your work here the City College of The City University of New York.
May 09, 2016
Thank you, Michael, for the introduction and thank you to the Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science for inviting me to deliver this year’s Leon Goldstein Memorial Lecture. This is a highly regarded forum at CUNY and I am honored to be part of the tradition. President Goldstein was a legend for the transformation he oversaw here at Kingsborough Community College, and it is appropriate at an event named in his honor to discuss our developing plans for the next phase in the renewal of the nearly 170 year old City University of New York.
CUNY should take stock of the enormous progress we have made over recent decades, but must also constantly assess the changing demands of the workplace and this restless giant of a city we live in, and determine how we can do a better job of strengthening, adding to and weaving together the many successful programs and attributes of our university to build an institution that will deliver even more successfully on the promise of our special mission. The world is changing, the environment for higher education is changing, our students and their needs and expectations are changing, academic disciplines are changing, and so must we. Great institutions, and certainly great universities, understand that they must embrace renewal if they are to continue to be fully relevant and meet their potential.
Today we’re well into planning that is providing the opportunity to assess our needs and set forth our ambitions and advance new strategies. CUNY’s strategic plan will provide a new framework, outlining what we plan to achieve and how we will accomplish our objectives. This forum gives me an opportunity to talk about some elements of our thinking for a 21st Century CUNY and to invite you to participate with me in our thinking.
Now of course I realize there are challenges to thinking about the future when we have been unable to resolve a long overdue labor contract, but I’m going to ask you to do that today. We all agree that this is our highest priority, and I ended my day Friday with meetings on this subject and I’m leaving here today to meet with the PSC leadership. I am convinced we will find a solution and I am totally committed to that goal. At the same time, we must continue to think about and plan for the students, the city and the state we all serve.
In CUNY’s transformation over the past decade, we added many impressive and important new programs – a graduate school of journalism, a graduate school of cinema, a new graduate school of public health and health policy, the state-of-the-art Advanced Science Research Center, and much more. To accelerate our progress in the next decade we will need to continue to innovate in ways that are central to our mission and that have major impact. We also need to leverage our strengths by connecting the many parts and promising initiatives of CUNY in efficient and effective ways. While we made great strides, there is much important work to be done.
I believe much opportunity lies in leveraging the assets of CUNY to make it a truly integrated university, an institution that is much more than an interesting confederation of colleges and programs – much more, in other words, than the sum of its parts. We must do a much better job of connecting our colleges and programs and people with each other, as well as with people and institutions outside the university. A new commitment to connectivity and collaboration will allow us to realize the enormous benefits of scale that we have not yet achieved, improve opportunities for our students by drawing deeper on the potential of our faculty and others and allow us to benefit from our location in a single, wonderfully diverse, cosmopolitan city. It is a vision of a new urban university that will rely more on connections among our 24 campuses, connections between CUNY and institutions and communities in New York and around the world.
We must begin with a commitment to increase, sharply, graduation rates at our community colleges and senior colleges, insure that our students are well prepared for the most promising career paths in the knowledge economy and create more ways to use technology in teaching and learning and guiding our students. We will also provide our faculty with more resources and opportunities for advancing scholarship in their academic fields, collaborate more and better with outside institutions so they can benefit from areas in which we specialize and our faculty and students can benefit from additional talent, facilities and resources, connect with other major universities around the world to collaborate in addressing the grand challenges of a rapidly urbanizing global population and connect better with our many natural partners, including alumni, foundations and philanthropies who share our goals.
We should begin by seeing the world through the eyes of our students, and this is what lies ahead for them. By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the knowledge economy will require postsecondary education, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and Workforce. Georgetown also estimates that the U.S. will fall 5 million short of those needed numbers. The fastest growing occupations will be health care, community services and STEM-related fields. The simple reality is that diplomas from highly regarded institutions matter now more than they have in the past, and they will matter even more in the future. A college graduate enjoys roughly double the lifetime earnings of a high school graduate, and an even starker contrast emerges from the latest U.S. unemployment data. For those without a high school diploma, the rate was 7.5 percent; for those with bachelor’s degrees it was 2.4 percent.
CUNY was created—and, I suspect we would all agree, exists today–primarily to give underrepresented groups, low income families and immigrants a pathway to middle class careers by providing a highly accessible, affordable, high quality education. CUNY may well be the single best means of reversing the trend of income inequality in New York City. Our mission is vital today because it makes our economy far more prosperous, gives families the means to be self-reliant, changes the economic arc not only of individuals but of generations and it insures that New York will remain the financial, business and cultural capital of the nation by providing a constant source of drive and talent.
About 60 percent of New York’s high school graduates who go on to college attend CUNY. It is a remarkably diverse group. More than 40 percent were born in another country and roughly 40 percent are the first in their families to attend college. Nearly 40 percent come from households with less than $20,000 in annual income. As a result, approximately 70 percent of our full-time students pay no tuition because they qualify for federal and state financial aid and other support. About 80 percent graduate with no federal student debt. This is a higher education story that can be told nowhere else in the world. This is who we are and it provides a compelling argument for support of a CUNY that offers affordable access on an unparalleled scale.
But as you know there is a big difference between access and success. A critical goal for our country and our city is to have the greatest educational attainment levels, not just the highest enrollment numbers. Far too many of our students today fail to graduate in a timely manner. In other words, the connection between their often modest origins and the better life many seek is often broken, so one of our necessary objectives must be to repair it. There can be no underestimating how difficult that is. Nearly 80 percent of our community college students arrive with one or more remedial needs and far too many are unable to get past that hurdle. Nationally, the urban community college graduation rate is about 16 percent, which is clearly unacceptable. As David Kirp, a professor of public policy at Berkeley and good friend of CUNY, wrote in a recent Op-Ed in The New York Times, “If any company had as much trouble hanging on to its customers, it would go out of business.”
A great deal of thoughtful work is required to address the remedial needs of our students. And while we have worked closely with the city’s schools, we must deepen our connections to insure students develop the basic reading, writing and math skills that will prepare them to succeed. One way will be a new program to send successful CUNY students into the city’s middle and high schools to coach and mentor the younger students, providing role models and relevant advice.
We will connect with more students with remedial needs before they matriculate, placing them in programs like CUNY Start and Math Start, where immersion has proven effective in getting students over these basic competency hurdles. We are carefully examining how we can assess our students’ capabilities and meet their needs in ways that are more flexible, while still appropriately rigorous. Accordingly, we are evaluating proposed changes to math assessment and preparation that consider the interests, needs and intended majors of the students rather than a single approach that may unnecessarily fail too many.
Here, in the spot where College Now was created, I would also say we need to find ways for many more talented high school students to experience college and earn credits before they leave high school.
For too many students, once they enroll in degree programs, many challenges remain. President Herzek gave a thoughtful presentation last week to the CUNY Council of Presidents that made clear why increasing student success can be so challenging. As he explained, the Kingsborough retention rate from the spring to the fall of 2015 was 69 percent. That means Kingsborough lost 3,795 students over the summer. It was sobering to learn that about a quarter of those students had GPAs better than 2.0, owed less than $1,000 and had more than 20 credits but were forced out due to registration blocks on financial grounds. Another quarter of those students fell out due to the loss of financial aid. In a survey in which Kingsborough students were asked about the greatest stresses they faced, they listed at the top tuition, textbooks and Metrocards for public transit. The fourth item? Food. We should not be losing many of these students, but must develop methods for quickly identifying the impediments and helping students overcome them, and the high touch interventions Kingsborough is implementing, using smart technology, are showing good results.
The cynic has an easy and completely unacceptable way to improve our numbers – accept fewer students with major challenges. We know that can have an impact on rankings in the prominent national surveys. That might improve attainment results but it would be at a cost of who we are and what has made CUNY such a uniquely important institution. And it would ill serve New York. CUNY has a better idea: we are going to embrace those students who need support and we are going to continue to innovate, energize, and scale up programs that will lead the country in providing paths to student attainment. One of the most successful is certainly our Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP. Kingsborough has its own programs that have also shown very positive results and I believe that as we work to become more integrated and collaborative across CUNY we must also encourage innovation, entrepreneurship and risk-taking at the colleges. These are not mutually exclusive approaches. To do otherwise would ignore the reality that good ideas come from many places, especially where the real work of education and student progress takes place.
The best argument for ASAP is its results: it has improved three-year graduation rates to more than 50 percent – 57 percent for the most recent cohort – compared with slightly more than 20 percent for a comparable group of full-time community college students. It costs us about $3,700 per student, an amount that has gone down and will continue to decline as we scale up. More important, we are graduating so many more students that our cost per graduate is actually falling. That is why we are now busy increasing the number of ASAP students from about 7,000 this year to 25,000 in 2018. We are also preparing to cover all full-time students at one institution — Bronx Community College — and expanding to a senior college — John Jay — for the first time. John Jay’s experience with its first pilot cohort has been very impressive, and we will look for ways to further demonstrate the success of proven interventions at senior colleges as well as community colleges. This will not be inexpensive and we cannot do this on our own, so this is one more area for worthy investments by public and private partners.
We must also take action to improve student retention and attainment by smoothing and eliminating the friction in the paths from community colleges to the senior colleges, making it easier to transfer credits from one CUNY college to another, simplifying the financial aid process, and building far more streamlined and efficient connections among colleges so students can take courses on different campuses, when needed. This integration will benefit both our students and our faculty, facilitating collaboration on a much grander scale. ePermit programs and other tools for enhancing institutional permeability can aid students in far greater numbers to obtain the credits they require in a timely way rather than face obstacles.
Among the other elements in our efforts to deliver those benefits is a much-needed upgrade to our Degree Works program, which will help students follow their course requirements more easily and stay on track with appropriate course choices. We are also procuring predictive analytical tools for use across CUNY that will provide early alerts to advisors when problems develop and help them reach students promptly, when assistance can matter most. We will develop strategies to keep more students on full-time tracks, hastening their paths to graduation, and making available for the first time a system-wide, online course catalog to smooth the way for students taking needed courses at other campuses.
The subject of technology brings me to another strategy currently underused at CUNY for improving access and completion rates — online and hybrid courses and programs. Students are increasingly comfortable with and adept at using technology in all aspects of their lives, and encouraging them to get more of their education this way is natural. We have developed high quality, respected programs, but we’ve been too slow to expand our offerings and we will accelerate this.
Expansion of online education would give us access to a far greater number of students, whether they live in New York or elsewhere. There is enormous potential here both to burnish CUNY’s global brand and create a new source of revenue. And it would advance another of our strategic goals of serving more adult learners, who often have credits but not diplomas, and workers seeking mid-career changes that require retooling. Older working adults are a key constituency. Improvement in our remediation programs will help us reach and attract these students, and the expansion of these efforts, online and in classrooms, will allow us to serve the workers, labor unions and employers of the city. We will create a new center to serve as a portal of entry for these learners and others into the university system.
It hardly need be said that one of CUNY’s greatest assets is its location in the most diverse and cosmopolitan city in the country. The city is our classroom, our laboratory, our campus; it is an enormously interesting data set, a mystery to be explored, an artistic opportunity to be seized. It is also a place where most can find the career of their choice, but there is much more CUNY can do to help our students get in the door and demonstrate their talents to employers. Too many employers know too little about CUNY and the talent of our students. We need to connect more effectively with the businesses and organizations where our students want to work, and make it easier for them to connect with CUNY – for internships, jobs, life-long learning opportunities, and more. In addition, there are rich opportunities for our faculty in working closely with colleagues in the public and private sectors. We need to continue to be responsive to the needs of the employers our students want to join, and that will mean offering more certificates that have value in the market, as well as providing more courses designed to meet specific needs in targeted sectors.
I could cite many examples of recent initiatives with businesses and other institutions, but here are a few:
The financial industry is one of New York’s largest and most attractive sources of employment and we are working with its leaders, as well as national organizations such as the Business Higher Education Forum and the Business Roundtable, to develop curricula that will meet the needs of the industry and make our students increasingly competitive. Baruch College, for instance, has created three new majors in data analytics: in computer information systems, marketing and marketing analytics, and information risk management and cyber security, as well as minors in marketing analytics and CIS data analytics. That reflects the growing influence of big data on a number of businesses and the new competencies that are required for the high-paying jobs in those fields. The speed with which Baruch responded surprised many of our private sector partners and provides a model for collaboration that will greatly benefit our students.
Urban areas have a myriad of health challenges, and CUNY will step up its already substantial contributions in those areas. We will build on 40 years of success of the Sophie Davis program and open a medical school in the fall, participating with St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. This partnership addresses the principal rate limiting factor in medical education – clinical education opportunities. Our student body, while small, will include sharply higher numbers of underrepresented students than other medical schools and, as we have learned from past experience, a larger number of those doctors would be expected to return to under-served neighborhoods in the city.
In another exciting initiative, in March we announced the launch of the Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship, or WiTNY, partnering with Cornell Tech and a group of corporate partners including Verizon, IBM, Accenture, Citi and Xerox. The goal is to meet the growing need for workers with computer science and technology expertise — and to do it by significantly increasing the numbers of capable women, who now occupy an embarrassingly low percentage of tech jobs. We will expand introductory computer science courses, provide generous scholarships and internships, and mentoring and career advisement support.
The arts are a signature industry in New York, but too few of our students have had exposure to them, as well as too few opportunities to build careers in museums, theater, and the other performing arts. We have launched an ambitious CUNY Cultural Initiative this year, and partners have been signing up enthusiastically to give our students access to institutions that most have never visited, or even imagined visiting. The first major institutions to welcome CUNY students, at no charge, were the Whitney, the Cooper Hewitt, El Museo del Barrio, the Jewish Museum and others. We are working with our partners in New York’s cultural institutions to expand arts curricula and programs and to create internship and job opportunities. BAM, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum and others have agreed to work with us on this initiative. The expanding New York movie and television industry offers many opportunities and last fall we opened Brooklyn College’s Feirstein graduate school of cinema in Steiner Studios in the Navy Yard. We will bring diversity to an industry that has been conspicuously lacking in it and open the door to high-paying jobs for our very talented students. It is the only such school in the country in a working studio, another example of what I mean by the great opportunities in leveraging the assets of our partners.
Scientific research has, of course, long been an area rich with collaborations, and we can do much more with outside partners to provide interesting research opportunities for our faculty and students. A recent example is the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, with CUNY in the lead and with other partners including Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. Together, the consortium has assembled a cutting-edge center of knowledge on the physical, ecological, and social systems of the Bay, and it will study water quality, flooding, health of the salt marshes and the impact of climate change. CUNY is a partner in The Center for Urban Science and Progress, or CUSP, a big data project led by NYU and that includes Carnegie Mellon University and industrial partners such as IBM, Microsoft and Siemens. CUNY leads the New York City Regional Innovation Node, funded by the NSF, spurring the translation of fundamental research to the market place, encouraging collaboration between academia and industry, and training funded faculty, students and other researchers to understand innovation and entrepreneurship.
We will also create more and better ways for our faculty to collaborate through CUNY-wide resources such as the ASRC and through new partnerships like the CUNY Global Cities Network. These efforts foster the interdisciplinary work that is needed to solve the challenges that cities across the world face today, and expand the reach and impact of CUNY expertise.
The changing economics of public higher education require us to think differently about our revenues as well as our expenditures. Since the mid-1980s, the share of state funding for public higher education has steadily declined, in some places precipitously. According to data collected by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, over the past 25 years educational appropriations per full-time equivalent student have declined 20 percent while net tuition per full-time equivalent student has risen 107 percent. In other words, higher tuition has replaced public funding, creating a greater burden for many students and limiting institutional investments in faculty and academic programs. And while New York provides a higher share of funding than most states, the appropriation per student has gone down steadily here as well. The reason is simple — funding hasn’t kept up with growth. We have expanded to 275,000 degree seeking students and the lion’s share of increases in funding to support that enrollment has come from tuition. Since the recession, state appropriations in New York State have dropped 2.6 percent and tuition has increased 30 percent.
There will be increased pressures on costs, and we need to be excellent stewards of public funds. Part of the answer will be continued efforts to find efficiencies, including in academic program offerings. We need to make sure that our investments are meeting real demands and that we are taking full advantage of the programs we already have in place. We have an incredible array of programs offered by very talented faculty, and we cannot afford to replicate them everywhere. We must ask how we can best serve our students and the public by taking full advantage of these offerings, regardless of college location.
I am encouraged by tie-ups such as Hunter College with Cornell for research space, Brooklyn College with a private film studio, and Medgar Evers with emerging private businesses through StartUp NY. I believe we need to create more linkages that offer these mutual benefits. We need more space, and there are few cities where it costs more. And the benefits to our faculty and students from collaboration extend far beyond shared space. Other ways to extend our reach within the city include partnering among CUNY colleges and with other institutions to combine programs in new locations or provide more housing for our students.
Great opportunity exists for us to build much stronger connections with people and organizations dedicated to philanthropy. While our colleges have had much more success fundraising in recent years, I believe we need to do several things to improve our results dramatically. This year we retained a leading firm in public university fundraising to do a deep dive into CUNY’s advancement operations, benchmark us against peers and provide recommendations. In short, they recommended three things: that we invest more in smart college fundraising infrastructure, use a shared services model to take costs out of college activities so those operations can spend their resources on the real work of fundraising, and build a new CUNY-wide fundraising operation. We now have teams of professionals from the colleges working on implementing the highest priority strategies. A word with regard to the last item, CUNY-wide fundraising — we have worked with college advancement professionals, presidents and college foundation boards to make it clear that we have no interest in hindering college-based fundraising. Quite the opposite. But we live in a new era of philanthropy where donors, often individuals — including those with no ties to CUNY — are making very significant catalytic investments to improve society in fundamental ways. It is this market that we hope to enter, offering the opportunity through major investments in CUNY, its colleges and their 500,000 total degree and continuing education students, to change New York City and the world.
There are great challenges to these strategies. They require us to do more in different ways, build on our evidence-based successes and develop new approaches to stubborn challenges that have held us and our students back. They require us to be open to new thinking about how we use our limited resources and, more importantly, how we leverage our work through far better collaboration with each other and with many other partners who share our goals.
I am convinced that CUNY, which has reinvented itself many times over 170 years, has the commitment, the talent and the energy for the important work that lies ahead. Through better connections with our students, among our colleges, with important partners in the private and public sectors, and around the world, we can create a model for the 21st century urban university, one that capitalizes on its singular location, its unparalleled scale in one place, its incredible diversity and talent and the good will and good judgment of those who not only want us to succeed but depend on our success. The promise of what was founded as the Free Academy has never been more vital or more relevant, and I am confident you share my enthusiasm and passion for this next exciting chapter.
April 15, 2016
The leadership of The City University of New York has consistently and publicly opposed a boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education. CUNY has a long history of actively pursuing mutually beneficial relationships to further the interests of our faculty and students in education and research with leading institutions around the world, including those in Israel, and we intend to continue to do so. We are disappointed by this vote from one student group, but it will not change CUNY’s position.