February 04, 2016
I am pleased to announce the third round of the Chancellor’s Research Fellowship Program to advance the research and scholarship of our outstanding community college faculty. I saw first-hand how important and successful the program is to faculty when I hosted a reception in honor of last year’s winners and learned of the exciting projects this program supports.
Under the program, the Chancellor’s office of The City University of New York will award up to 20 research fellowships of two courses of released-time each to tenured full-time community college faculty members who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to research and publication. The two course releases may be taken over one or two semesters during the 2016-17 academic year.
Applicants for the Chancellor’s Research Fellowships should electronically submit the following to the office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost at firstname.lastname@example.org:
- a cover sheet with name, department, college, rank, date of tenure, email address, home and college addresses and phone numbers;
- a proposal of no more than five pages, describing the project for which they are seeking the fellowship; and
- a current vitae with evidence of an ongoing commitment to research and scholarship.
The subject line of the email should read “CRF_YOURSURNAME.” The deadline for submission is April 1, 2016.
All applications will be reviewed by faculty committees. Announcements of fellowship recipients will be made in late spring 2016 and an awards ceremony will be held in May. Fellowship recipients will be asked to submit a brief progress summary on their research in the semester following the completion of their fellowship.
Please feel free to contact University Provost Vita Rabinowitz with questions about this program. Thank you for distributing this announcement to tenured full-time faculty members at your college.
James B. Milliken
January 25, 2016
When the legislature established the current structure for the governance and financing of The City University of New York, it used clear and unequivocal language to set apart CUNY’s special mission. The law provides that the university will be “an independent system of higher education” that must be “responsive to the needs of its urban setting” and operate as “an integrated system,” with close collaboration between the community colleges and senior colleges. It adds that CUNY must maintain its traditional commitments to both academic excellence and equal access to students, faculty and staff, continuing its history as a highly diverse institution.
In perhaps its most important mandate, the legislature said, “The City University is of vital importance as a vehicle for the upward mobility of the disadvantaged in the City of New York.”
As we begin the new year, we’re focused on developing a new university-wide strategic plan, a new university master plan, opening new schools and programs and finding new ways to ensure our students’ success and better serve New York. As we undertake this important work, I think it’s useful to recall our unique mandate and special responsibilities, not just to the future prosperity of the city and state, but to expanding opportunities to the many underrepresented communities CUNY has always served with enthusiasm and distinction.
Much depends on our success in continuing to raise our academic profile, to bring to scale our highly successful programs for supporting New York City students who arrive with big dreams but also remedial needs, and to attract and retain the finest faculty. Succeeding at these tasks, with the support and guidance of this Board, will ensure that the hope among our student body, one of the largest, most diverse and hard-working anywhere, gets translated into prosperity and fulfillment, as it has for more than 160 years.
CUNY is highly regarded around the world for its mission and the success it enjoys in fulfilling its essential work, and our faculty and students continue to earn important recognition. Within the last few weeks, CUNY’s online bachelor’s degree program, provided by our School of Professional Studies, was ranked number 11 in the country by U.S. News & World Report. That is gratifying recognition of our efforts to expand the availability and increase the quality of our online offerings. CUNY Law continues to gain recognition nationally, and a few days ago was cited as the number one public interest law program in the country, moving ahead of Berkeley. The new medical school we’re opening in the fall will similarly have a distinctive mission in line with CUNY’s values: its students will in many instances come from underrepresented communities and many of its graduates are expected to return to underserved neighborhoods to contribute to improvements in health care.
We have also earned recognition for our efforts to ensure that our colleges are increasingly accessible to veterans and offer support tailored to their needs. I am very pleased that the number of military-friendly campuses at CUNY has expanded from 7 last year to 17 this year. CUNY colleges are working hard to give these deserving men and women the education and skills they need to follow their service in the military with rewarding careers. We are proud to have them at CUNY.
Students clearly recognize the value of a CUNY education. We are graduating record numbers of students, giving them the capabilities and credentials they need to realize their dreams, raise families and contribute to the region’s prosperity. This is a result of very purposeful attention to student success and progress, not only access. This focus on success–particularly graduation–is part of a national movement, but in many ways, particularly with our ASAP initiative, CUNY has been leading the way.
We are keenly aware that it isn’t sufficient to be successful, but that we must do it as efficiently as possible. We are entrusted with public funds and we have a responsibility to be the best stewards possible. We have an impressive record of consolidating back office operations and sharing services among all colleges, perhaps more extensively than any other university system in the nation. And while we have had success with a number of productivity initiatives, the University will pursue opportunities for further savings. Much of this has been possible because while CUNY is one of the largest university systems in the country, its natural advantage is that it is in one city. This allows us to do things no other similarly large institution can do, combining functions that generally have to be done in many locations in other large systems. The functions almost always performed at the campus level in other systems – but that are performed at one administrative site at CUNY — include admissions, financial aid, payroll, benefits, testing, security, information technology and capital construction. This extensive shared services model allows us to reduce redundancies and keep total University administrative costs down.
As we reported to the Board of Trustees in the fall, we have also realized substantial savings at our central administration for the current fiscal year. We put in place a hiring freeze along with reductions of 10% to the purchasing and temporary personnel budgets. We project that these actions will result in year-to-year savings in the system office of at least 6% for Fiscal Year 2016, and probably significantly greater.
This is work that will never be done and we will never be satisfied. In an era of limited investment in public higher education, a more cost effective operation allows us to reallocate resources to the classroom, and that must always be our goal.
On January 13th, the Governor outlined the Executive Budget, and I want to comment briefly on some positive aspects of the proposed budget. These include the performance funding initiative, which Governor Cuomo has made a priority and which is already making a difference at CUNY colleges. The Governor’s leadership with the predictable tuition policy provides an important opportunity to supplement state investment in the university. We’re also pleased to play a key role in the Governor’s plan for education in and after transition from prison. And we enthusiastically support his renewed effort to pass a Dream Act for New York which would benefit so many CUNY students.
The Governor also proposed a major shift in funding from the state to the city, which would trigger a significant investment toward settling our labor contracts. It would appear there is to be more discussion on this proposal, but our position remains clear: our interest is the financial stability and adequate investment that will allow us to continue to serve over 500,000 students and the people of New York.
In the City Preliminary Budget, which the Mayor issued on Thursday, there was also important support for CUNY. This included additional funding for scaling up our immensely successful ASAP Program, of which the Mayor has been a great champion. He also announced funding for two collaborative programs with the city’s schools, as well as continued funding for the Civic Justice Corps Program at John Jay College. We are grateful for this support.
In the coming months we will work with the state and the city on CUNY’s budget and seek to conclude fair contracts with our faculty and staff. We will not lose sight of the real interests at stake, the education and the futures of the over 500,000 students served everyday by The City University of New York. That is the reason why the effort to maintain a financially strong CUNY and to support a talented faculty matter so much. CUNY’s success is essential to the vitality of New York and the opportunities for its people.
January 15, 2016
To the CUNY Community,
The City University of New York is built on many principles, but none is more important than our dedication, for more than 160 years, to opportunity, social justice and inclusion. While some universities have mottos, at CUNY we have causes, providing New Yorkers, particularly those underrepresented in our society, the education and skills they need for achieving their dreams and building better communities.
The national holiday recognizing that great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is particularly meaningful to us at CUNY because he articulated so brilliantly, and advanced at such cost, the values to which we, too, are committed. His struggle reminds us that constructing a just society is hard work, and that the battle against discrimination must continue so that all of us have the opportunity to set our ambitions high, and reach them.
At the heart of Dr. King’s message was a belief that the battle to overcome division benefited not just those excluded from the benefits of a free society but our entire country, which was denied the creativity and energy of those left out. CUNY was built on that principle and we – and our city and state – have thrived because of our embrace of underrepresented New Yorkers, including immigrants from all over the world, who bring optimism and fresh thinking to our classrooms.
As we recall the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, I hope we can reflect on and rededicate ourselves to his vision of justice and inclusion.
James B. Milliken
January 14, 2016
There is much in Governor Cuomo’s 2016-17 Executive Budget that supports the colleges, graduate and professional schools of The City University of New York, including performance funding that will allow us to deliver improved outcomes for our students, renewal of the predictable tuition policy, a plan to partner with education programs in our prisons, a State Dream Act, and more. These proposed investments in CUNY, the largest urban public university system in the country with more than 550,000 students, will help fuel the engine of our city and state.
The most significant item in the budget is a proposed change in the state and city share of funding for CUNY. The proposal calls for a shift of about half a billion dollars of CUNY support from the state to the city. While this suggested change appears to be budget neutral to CUNY over the long term, it would come with a much-needed investment that would contribute to settling our long overdue labor contracts. This recognition of the need for additional funding for our faculty and staff is vitally important. Settling our collective bargaining contracts has been our highest priority and this step would bring us closer to the fair contracts our faculty and staff deserve.
What must not be overshadowed in any debate are the real interests at stake — the education, careers and futures of our talented and ambitious students, many drawn from underrepresented sectors of New York. I hope all share our priority: the interests of CUNY’s 550,000 students come first and the funding for their education, regardless of source, must be secure. CUNY has been vital to New York since 1847 and with record enrollment this year and an impact unmatched by any university system, the university has never been more important to the prosperity and vitality of the city and state.
December 08, 2015
Remarks delivered to CUNY Faculty at Salute to Scholars reception on Dec. 8, 2015 at the Cooper Hewitt Museum.
We’re delighted to be celebrating your successes and contributions this evening, and we’re happy to be honoring you in this stylish house of design and creativity — and money — from the past. But the real importance of your honors and your scholarship is ultimately about the future at a time when that word stirs up a mix of excitement, possibility and, unfortunately, anxiety.
This is a time of immense promise – but also great risks. You see it in the papers, or your iPads, every day. We are dazzled constantly by truly remarkable new innovations. Turn the page and we read of the kinds of tragedies most of us hoped we had left behind in the last century. That’s our world, for good and for ill, and the truth is you and your work really are beacons for the promise in our society because of your clarity and your insights — and also, hopefully, by engaging in scholarship that in one way or another may reduce the risks to our health, our communities, our world.
But I think your successes have an even greater meaning because of the kind of place CUNY is. Your work has enlarged the fields in which you work. It has propelled your careers. But think, for a moment, of what it does for our students. Like students everywhere, they wrestle with big questions: Where are we going? What should we value? It seems to me that for many here those concerns are more immediate and felt even more deeply than at some other universities. We’re fortunate that our exceptionally diverse student body is so full of first generation college students, immigrants and men and women from low income and underrepresented groups. Among other things, that means that they really want to be here, since it probably wasn’t a given, and it means they may not come from backgrounds where those big questions have already been answered for them by their families or communities.
As educators, we don’t solve the big questions for them, of course, but we do give them tools and knowledge so they can find their way to the answers that they find satisfying and that help launch their careers. The kind of pathbreaking scholarship and studies you have all engaged in set standards of excellence for those students, it motivates them to reach high and, if we’re lucky, it illuminates paths that are filled with optimism and promise. It’s why what we do is such a great calling.
I salute your hard work and achievements, and I especially look forward to your next chapters.
November 23, 2015
Today I’m going to spend most of my time discussing the budget, which is one of the most important responsibilities of this board.
I want to begin by briefly mention the importance of and progress we have made in one area, performance funding, which I believe holds real promise for accelerating smarter investments in our operations and improvements in how we deliver on our mission. Since we last met as a Board, the Executive Committee, with authority provided by this Board, approved many promising new investments in our 24 colleges.
CUNY has had a performance management system for many years. It assesses areas like academic quality, student success and financial management. The new funding initiative, advocated by the Governor and closely aligned with priorities of the university and our colleges, has given the colleges a chance to formulate strategies and seek funding for new targeted approaches through a competitive process.
Approximately $20 million was allocated for the first stage, in which our colleges offered proposals. We evaluated the proposals and made awards based on merit. It was a rewarding process, with proposals for areas such as accelerating development of online courses, increasing graduation rates and developing new workforce initiatives. In one example, its “We Want You Back” proposal, Queens College will create a system for contacting former students who left in good standing without degrees and try to recruit them back, offering financial aid and other assistance.
Our budget request, which will be presented later this evening, includes funding for expanding and sustaining this effort. I expect they will enhance our capabilities, provide new models, and allow us to deliver even better outcomes for our students.
We are, of course, addressing a number of other important priorities. One involves data science and data analytics. Baruch College has created three new business majors and two minors in the important fields of data science and data analytics, with the participation of leaders in the finance sector. We are leading a national effort with a number of financial services firms to develop new curriculum and educate more students in data analytics and the firms are offering internships and jobs. This is a good example of private-public partnership that I think is so beneficial to our students.
I could offer similar support for each priority in our request, but I want to use most of my time today to discuss more generally some thoughts on a number of interrelated issues central to the funding and success of this university. First, a topic that is always controversial: tuition.
Our budget request includes support for a renewal of what has been referred to as the rational or predictable tuition policy. I know some have claimed the policy is not rational because of its impact on students and their families. I think we can stipulate that no one likes tuition increases, and if I had a choice there is no question what I would choose—that the state would provide more support and the need for tuition increases would be minimized. The reality is that nationally a general disinvestment in public higher education has taken place for decades. New York, with its historically generous Tuition Assistance Program, has been one state that has invested more in higher education, although it’s clear that CUNY’s operations have not been adequately funded in the modern era.
In New York too we have seen deep budget reductions some years and in others modest increases at best. In years when there were significant budget reductions, steep tuition increases–up to 37% one year—went to make up for budget deficits. Two components of the tuition policy of the last five years are notable: first, the University was allowed to spend the tuition raised on investments in students, and second, it was accompanied by a commitment from the state memorialized in a “maintenance of effort” provision that prevented the state from reducing the state appropriation year over year to CUNY. And in all years but one, the state increased the non-tuition appropriation year over year. But as we know from the current year, when the state does not adequately fund mandatory increases in CUNY’s non-discretionary budget items such as automatic fringe benefit increases, our budgets still suffer significantly.
With the strong support of CUNY and SUNY, both chambers passed a more robust MOE provision in the last session that requires the state to fund increases in contractual salary and benefit obligations. We have also joined SUNY as well as our own students and faculty and PSC and others in urging the Governor to sign this bill. CUNY representatives were in Albany as part of a larger effort just last Friday to urge the Governor’s support.
Everyone here knows too well that our labor contracts are long out of date and I know everyone here agrees with me that we need a fair settlement. We need to do all we can to be competitive for the faculty and staff. Funds to support a contract come from three sources, and I have been open with everyone, including the PSC leadership, about this from very early in my tenure. The sources are state and city appropriations, reallocations in existing budget, and tuition. And without additional funding from the state, that leaves reallocations and tuition. Since our budgets are approximately 80 percent personnel, meaningful reallocations would almost certainly include reductions in workforce. The truth is we have too few full-time faculty and academic advisors and other support staff now. As we continue to enjoy record enrollments and face more demands, cutting important positions is not a constructive alternative. That leaves tuition. These are facts; people can disagree about choices that should be made, but I don’t believe they can dispute the possible sources and availability of funding.
What Trustees are being asked to vote on today is a request supported by the Board’s Fiscal Committee for authority to raise and invest tuition. The Board is not voting on a tuition increase, as you know. That decision can be made when we have a better sense of what the state funding picture looks like. At that time it is at least conceivable that a tuition increase may not be necessary or may be required at a level lower than that authorized. The Board will make that decision later with more information.
A couple of additional points here: First, we do not plan to ask the Board to consider an increase in tuition next year for the more than 100,000 students who attend our community colleges. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact, that while our senior college tuition is quite low by national standards, our community college tuition is relatively high. Second, while tuition rates have increased in each of the last five years, over 65 percent of our undergraduates actually pay no tuition, mainly because of Pell and TAP support. It appears that the impact of relatively low tuition and significant financial aid makes a difference; CUNY enrollment during these same five years has grown 5 percent or 13,000 students, in that time—equal to the enrollment of a good-sized college.
The final aspect of this subject I want to address is the idea that we should use tuition revenue only for new investments, especially new investments that help students. Among the investments justly celebrated is the addition of almost 1000 new full-time faculty. This is a great thing for CUNY and our students and I fully support this investment. But the idea that we should not use tuition, if it’s the only source of available increased funding, for supporting our current faculty is wrong in my view. We can make no better investment in our students than in attracting and retaining the best faculty. And as a practical matter it is often more cost-effective and valuable to retain experienced faculty than to have to replace them. So whether the source of investment is state appropriations or tuition, my priority will always be investing in talent because I am convinced that has the greatest impact on our students’ education and success.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. We must do our best to convince the Governor and legislature to invest more in CUNY because of the incredible return on investment it provides. We will make difficult decisions on tuition later, depending on the level of state support. We will continue to do all we can to reach a fair agreement, given our fiscal condition, with our outstanding faculty and staff. And we will be driven by the goal of providing the best education for our students, helping them succeed in college and in life.
I’ll finish on a more upbeat note by mentioning an opportunity I had recently to attend a conference we organized with CUNY staff who help students apply for and obtain important awards. The keynote speaker was a remarkable Macaulay Honors Brooklyn College graduate, Zujaja Taqueer. Her family was forced to flee their native Pakistan when she was a girl and they came to Staten Island. After earning her degree here in History she won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and spent three years at Oxford University. She is now in her second year at the Harvard Medical School.
What was striking was not just her impressive achievements and maturity, but the thoughts she shared on how the CUNY awards staff could help our students earn more distinctions. She noted that every student she was competing against for the Rhodes, and the other winners, were from the Ivy League, but she insisted that CUNY should resist the temptation of trying to change our story to sound more like them. Our strength in the eyes of the judges for these awards, she insisted, is our narrative of diversity and, in some cases, of hardship, and that that narrative is the persuasive argument we should always make. I’ll close with Zujaja’s words:
“We should leverage rather than repudiate what makes CUNY special relative to other universities. Other students are considered privileged because of access to the social and financial capital that comes with going to a privileged elite university, but I’ve really come to realize what a privileged experience it is to be a New Yorker and go to a university with the kind of student population we have.”
I think Zujaja was on to something. Thank you.
November 13, 2015
One of the great privileges of being an educator is having the opportunity to attend events like this one today and to be able to meet and, now, celebrate our exceptionally talented award winners as well as the CUNY professionals who support our students and the organizations that provide funding and take the time to recognize so many worthy scholars. In my experience, nowhere is that satisfaction greater than at CUNY. Gatherings like this focus on much of what is extraordinary about this family of colleges, and the things that are the source of our dynamism — our excellence and our diversity.
Who better embodies that than Zujaja Tauqeer, who you will hear from soon. She is a native of Pakistan, a graduate with a degree in History from Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, a Rhodes Scholar and now a medical student at Harvard. We’re honored that you have come back to be with us today.
Since 1847, no institution in this country has done more than CUNY to welcome immigrants, first generation Americans and low income students. And no institution has done more to offer them an opportunity and the tools to pursue their dreams. The CUNY family is strengthened by the fact that we include students from 200 countries and who speak 190 languages. Forty percent of our undergraduates were born in another country.
This is a special place and it must always welcome the richly diverse communities of New York and the world — a place of inclusion, not exclusion. Especially at a time when there is so much emotionally-charged debate around the country and on our own campuses, this has never been more important. Universities are places where free speech, debate and the open exchange of ideas are not just encouraged, they are necessary to our mission of exploring and understanding a diverse range of ideas perspectives. And while we will always embrace this openness to many voices, intolerant, hateful and bigoted speech, while it may be legally protected, is anathema to our values. Those voices stop rather than encourage the dialogue and real debate that makes us stronger.
Our values, the tradition of CUNY as a place of opportunity welcoming all people, the excellence and diversity we celebrate today — these are the things that define us and make this an institution so essential to the future of New York and the country.
October 30, 2015
(Remarks delivered at the 11th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference held at Hunter College on Oct. 30, 2015)
Thank you for that introduction, Marcia.
It is a special pleasure to be joining again with The New York Times in Education in hosting CUNY’s 11th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, to have this opportunity to welcome the talented people who are participating today and, I’d like to add, to recognize all the women who contribute so much on a daily basis to the success of CUNY. Nine of our college and school presidents and deans are women and we benefit greatly from the fact that our leadership ranks are filled with exceptionally capable women who do the hard work of insuring that we provide the highest quality education in New York City.
It is customary at these events to recognize the great female leaders who got their starts at CUNY’s schools, and we are indeed proud of people like Bella Abzug, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Ruby Dee. But I wanted to underscore the importance of conferences like this one – focused on encouraging female leaders — by mentioning briefly just a few other graduates who some of you may not know of but who showed the real courage needed to break down some of the barriers unfairly holding back women and the disadvantaged. My point is that genuine leaders can set important examples and create opportunities even when the canvases they work on might be less visible to the public at large.
For example, there’s Carmen Arroyo, a Hostos Community College graduate, who was the first Puerto Rican woman as well as the first Hispanic woman in the New York State Assembly.
Jeannette Brown, from Lehman College, is a highly successful chemist and winner of the American Chemical Society’s Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences.
And Deborah Tobias Poritz, from Brooklyn College, was the first female New Jersey Attorney General and the first female Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.
But I take special pleasure in recalling Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, who earned a Masters degree from Queens College. Long before Rosa Parks blazed a difficult trail by defying a racist law and refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama, in 1955, Irene Morgan, another African American woman, refused to give up her seat to a white person in 1944 on an interstate bus. When a sheriff tried to arrest her in Virginia, she tore up the arrest warrant and fought with the deputy who tried to pull her off the bus. She later pleaded guilty to resisting arrest but adamantly refused to pay the $10 fine for violating a segregation ordinance. Her battle worked its way through the courts and, in 1946, the Supreme Court voted to strike down the law segregating interstate buses. One of her lawyers was a young man named Thurgood Marshall.
I could go on, and some of you could add to that list. But what I want to stress is the lesson that our communities and our society benefits when we lean on the shoulders of the brightest, most articulate and creative fighters among us, especially when they happen to be women. It is especially fulfilling to know that we take that as a core principle at CUNY.
None of this is to say that we do not have hard work to do still in removing the barriers that hold back some of the best among us. Here’s one piece of good news I found: according to the Census Bureau, in 2014 women narrowed the gap between their pay as compared with men, as their earnings rose to 78.6 percent of what men in similar positions earn, up from 78.3 percent in 2013. Of course, that is unacceptable, and even more are the figures from the Census Bureau showing that the pay of African American women and Latinas actually slipped further behind men in 2014.
We like to think of the highly competitive corporate world as being a real meritocracy, but I was struck recently by research showing that the disparity in pay is even greater for the ambitious women trying to climb the career ladders in corporate America. Economists wrote a few months ago in a New York Federal Reserve Bank publication that the gender pay differences are even greater for women in executive positions than those in working-class jobs.
Female executives, these researchers found, receive less total pay than men in large part because they are likely to receive fewer stock options and other forms of incentive pay.
That should both dismay and motivate us to continue taking concrete steps to level the playing field. It is difficult work, but what could be more satisfying than helping our country release and reward this locked-up potential?
That, I believe, is an excellent way to begin my introduction to today’s keynote speaker, Donna Shalala. Donna is yet another exceptionally accomplished member of the CUNY family, having served and distinguished herself as president of Hunter College from 1980 to 1987. It is hard to think of a person for whom that expression, “locked-up potential,” has less meaning than Donna. I say this after having spent some time reading her abbreviated CV, which is 23 pages long.
After growing up in Cleveland with her family and twin sister, and after receiving her doctorate from Syracuse University’s Public Affairs school, Donna taught at CUNY’s Baruch College and Columbia. She began then taking the first in a very long series of important leadership roles in the public sector, many of them confronting some of the great policy challenges of the times.
According to a story told by her sister, Diane, even as a little girl her destiny seemed evident. Diane explained once in a newspaper article how, when they were 10 years old, their father tried to make sure they were safe in the basement of their home as a tornado raced toward their neighborhood. Suddenly, Donna disappeared. Their frantic search led them to a nearby street corner — where they found Donna directing traffic.
Fortunately for us, she never stopped. While still teaching college in New York, Donna became the director and treasurer of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, which did the heavy-lifting in rescuing New York City from near bankruptcy in the 1970s. From 1977 to 1980, Donna served as assistant secretary for policy research and development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under President Carter.
She was Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison from 1987 to 1993, making her the first woman to run a Big Ten conference university. Among her policy initiatives was sharply increasing minority enrollment at the university and in the faculty.
Her hallmark has always been not just her intelligence and skill, but her extraordinary effectiveness. That’s what she delivered when she joined President Clinton’s cabinet as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, from 1993 to 2001, his entire two terms in office.
She managed the welfare reform process, she made health insurance available to more than 3 million uncovered children, raised child immunization rates to the highest levels in history and revitalized the National Institutes of Health, among other things. The Washington Post described her as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.”
That cabinet position was just a way station. After serving so ably, she became the president in 2001 of the University of Miami for more than a decade; she was the school’s first female leader. Earlier this year, she became president of the Clinton Foundation.
She has collected too many honors to name during those years. In 2008, she received one of the greatest and most deserved. President Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That is hard to follow up. But Donna, you truly do bring honor to your CUNY family and you represent the ideals we try to instill in each new generation of students.
I said I had a special presentation when we invited you, and I would now like to present you with the highest distinction we can offer at CUNY, the Chancellor’s Medal. It is difficult to imagine a more worthy recipient and it is my way of expressing deep appreciation for your service, your traffic directing skills and the example you have set, particularly for ambitious young women – like the interns here today. Thank you for your example, and we look forward to your remarks.
October 26, 2015
On behalf of The City University of New York, I wish to express our deepest appreciation to Chancellor Merryl Tisch for her tireless devotion to the enhancement of the quality and accessibility of the education of the children of New York State.
She has been a vigorous champion of college readiness and higher education opportunity, and a consistent voice on behalf of highly valued degrees that are key credentials needed for the future workforce so crucial to a vibrant, productive economy.
Her commitment to public service will remain an inspiration. We know that her future leadership activities will continue to further the improvement of education at all levels.
October 16, 2015
(Keynote address delivered at the 46th annual Association of Community College Trustees Leadership Congress on Oct. 16)
You’ve had a great program this week and I’m pleased a number of my CUNY community college colleagues have been with you.
I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk to this group of leaders in higher education. You have an extraordinarily important role in what I think is one of the key debates about the future of our country. It may not be as entertaining as some of the presidential debates, but I can assure you it is every bit as relevant to our future.
Community colleges are uniquely American inventions and I believe they hold the key to solving a number of our vexing challenges relating to national and regional competitiveness and individual opportunity. Unfortunately, by some measures we’re heading in the wrong direction.
When I was just out of college — and judging from the gray hair in the room, when many of you were, too — we were number one. That is, the U.S. was first in the world in educational attainment. But as most of you know, that has become a distant memory. Now, among the OECD countries, the club of the world’s wealthiest nations and our biggest competitors, we’re number 14 in attainment rates. Making matters worse, many of those countries are expanding their graduation rates faster than we are, so the U.S. is falling further behind.
This should unsettle most Americans and I’m pretty sure it unsettles you. It also certainly unsettles President Obama, who has said he wants the U.S. to be first in the world again by 2020.
Reaching that goal will be challenging, but it is absolutely worth striving for. Other countries have recognized the value of what the U.S. did in the post-war years – investing heavily in a new generation of college-goers, allowing vastly increased numbers of college graduates to contribute to unprecedented economic growth. Our friends and competitors came to appreciate the wisdom of that strategy, and they have been rapidly increasing the percentage of their citizens with college degrees. They are, in effect, lapping the U.S.
In addition to national destinies, higher education changes individual lives profoundly. You all know the economic numbers: a college graduate enjoys roughly double the lifetime earnings of a high school graduate. Almost 80 percent of all new jobs will require education beyond high school. The recent unemployment rate for those with just a high school degree was 5.2 percent, well above that of associate degree holders and more than double that of 4-year graduates.
And of course we also know that so many other social indicators improve with higher educational attainment: better health, higher levels of community involvement, less dependence on public assistance and less involvement with criminal justice
So for decades we have pushed college access, which is tremendously important. In a country where we believe deeply in equality of opportunity, insuring that the doors to institutions that build better careers and communities are open is in our national DNA.
The president’s free community college initiative doubles down on access. It is of course so timely because of the deep concerns over rising college tuitions and record levels of student debt. At a time when many students are taking on crippling debt community college leaders need to be loud and clear about the quality and value of what we provide.
But we must ask if reducing the cost of attendance alone is the right goal for us, or even the most important one. At The City University of New York, nearly 70 percent of our full-time community college students already pay no tuition because of federal, state and city aid, and over 80 percent of those who do graduate do so with zero federal debt.
We can and should improve access, particularly to underrepresented and low income populations, but by itself that’s not enough, and will not solve the biggest problem we face at community colleges. The key challenge today is significantly improving retention and graduation rates. This isn’t easy, but the stakes are huge and the battle is central to our mission.
And this is a battle most important for those students who face the greatest obstacles. While students from the highest income quartile graduate from college at a 77 percent rate, only 9 percent of those in the lowest quartile reach that goal. A substantial divide also exists among different racial and ethnic groups. That is simply unacceptable.
It is precisely from those underrepresented groups that community colleges generally draw so many of our students. So if there is a problem generally in educational attainment, there is a crisis at our community colleges. Our nation’s three year urban community college graduation rate is 15 percent.
In other words, 85 percent of the students in those urban community colleges are failing to graduate in 150 percent of the standard time to a degree.
Those figures look somewhat worse than they should, since a portion of those students – about 10 percent — leave community colleges to enroll in four-year colleges on their way to baccalaureate degrees. That is positive, but it should by no means mask concerns over the unsatisfactory overall rates.
And these are the students who have the most to gain from a degree. At CUNY, about half of our 100,000 community college students represent the first generation in their families to attend college and approximately half were born in another country. Half come from households that earn $20,000 or less a year, and most are underrepresented minorities.
It is not enough for us to provide only access or just an opportunity for advancement. We must take responsibility for equipping our students with the tools they need to take advantage of that opportunity, and be accountable for anything less.
The ladder up to the middle class and career success has been built on educational attainment. CUNY, a comprehensive University system with over 275,000 degree-seeking students, from high school completion to the PhD, has long been a magnet for students with modest financial resources and outsized abilities. Our graduates have won 13 Nobel Prizes and last year alone 22 of our students won Fulbrights. Earlier this year, there was a report on the undergraduate alma maters of the MacArthur Geniuses; only two public universities were in the top ten–Berkeley and CUNY.
Generations of immigrants, minorities and low-income Americans found that first rung at our community and other public colleges. These institutions have been, as CUNY alumnus and immigrant and Intel CEO Andy Grove said, the American Dream Machine.
That machine now needs retooling. Especially if we want all of our community college students to have a shot at the American Dream. Today I want to talk about some of the retooling we’re doing at CUNY’s community colleges, which is showing exceptional results. It is my hope that other schools will either embrace these models — and our optimism –-or develop their own equally successful innovations.
The great majority of our students come from New York City’s public schools, which, like those in other large urban systems have many challenges, so we begin with the view that our responsibilities must include programs that knit together high schools with our colleges so that more students enroll truly ready for the rigors of a quality college experience.
Instead of waiting for qualified students to show up at our doors from high schools, we need to help create them. Our collaborative programs with New York City high schools serve more than 25,000 students a year, in many instances helping them overcome inadequate preparation in subjects like math and reading, in other cases going much further and helping them actually earn college credits and associate degrees at the same time as their high school diplomas. And by the way, it costs the students nothing.
Like many of you, we have implemented Early College high schools, which provide intensive college preparatory and college classes, counseling and support – and amazing results. One of the schools, the Kingsborough Early College Secondary School, had a 93 percent high school graduation rate, with 68 percent of those students receiving at the same time their associate degrees.
This was a case where for me, seeing was believing. On my second day on the job at CUNY, I attended a graduation ceremony at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. At one point, the president asked students from the Hostos Lincoln Academy, another one of our Early College programs, to stand. A large group of students in the middle of the auditorium, all getting their associate degrees, rose to hearty applause from their classmates. Two weeks later those same young people walked across another stage and received high school diplomas.
A program we pioneered with IBM and the New York City public schools, called P-Tech, takes this a step further. Starting in 9th grade, it gives the students a chance to earn in six years their high school degree, an associate degree and substantial professional experience, and an increased likelihood of a job. After President Obama visited P-Tech in Brooklyn, he highlighted the program in a State of the Union address, which has led others to develop similar models.
Even with these programs, eighty percent of our incoming community college students require remediation in one or more subjects. To address this, our CUNY Start program is a sort of boot-camp designed to prepare those students in a highly supportive, intensive environment that costs them very little — $75 – and, importantly, does not cause them to burn through their financial aid.
It also works. From the fall of 2009 through the fall of 2014, two thirds of the incoming full-time students had failed all three subject areas on our proficiency tests, reading, writing and math, and one third had failed two subjects. By the end of the CUNY Start program, half had achieved proficiency in all three subjects and one third were proficient in two areas. With a new city investment, we’re doubling the size of the program.
Our newer Summer Start program provides 8-weeks of intensive math instruction for students who have been accepted at a school but have not passed our math remediation. They also attend a weekly college seminar helping them understand how to navigate college. It’s free and the students also receive MetroCards to help them get to their classes.
In addition to these CUNY-wide efforts, our colleges have their own exciting innovations, some showing great success, others great promise. These include the pioneering ePortfolios at LaGuardia, thematic academies at Queensborough, a virtual safety net at Kingsborough including a clever early alert app, and a two-generation initiative at Hostos, where almost one third of the students have children of their own.
Like you, with these programs and others, we have been trying to address, one by one, some of the hurdles that were holding community college students back. A CUNY initiative called the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP for short, combines many of these strategies in a comprehensive approach.
Students entering ASAP must commit to full time attendance. To make that possible, all students receive full financial aid. Since we found that transportation costs were a barrier, we provided free MetroCard passes for buses and subways.
Course choices are strictly limited – the opposite of the way many colleges operate. We felt students needed a clear roadmap and guidance, at least initially. To create a sense of community with peer support, students enter and advance within cohorts, organized by major.
Students are required to see advisors twice a month and a career specialist at least once a semester. The advisors are informed early when there are warning signs regarding academic performance or other issues. This requires many more advisors and that represents a significant, but essential investment. Under ASAP, advisors see about a third as many students as do typical CUNY community college advisors.
The results were almost immediate, and striking.
ASAP’s average three-year graduation rate has been about 52 percent overall. That compares with 22 percent for similar CUNY comparison group students and less than 17 percent for CUNY community colleges as a whole.
MDRC, a highly regarded research organization, conducted a five-year random assignment study and has concluded that ASAP’s effects are “unparalleled in large-scale experimental evaluations of programs in higher education.” In announcing its initiative for free community college, the White House also encouraged schools to adopt promising, evidence-based reforms, mentioning CUNY’s ASAP.
You know that these strategies are not inexpensive. Initially, we were spending more than $6,000 extra per student in ASAP. As we expand, that has declined to about $3,700.
We have benefited enormously from a major investment from the City of New York, which is helping in this important expansion, as well as New York State, an important supporter of the project. The budget for ASAP is growing from $26 million in the 2016 fiscal year to over $80 million in fiscal year 2019 as we take significant steps to broaden its reach.
But while the cost per student goes up, with significantly higher graduation rates, the cost per degree goes down. Let me say that again: even with a much higher investment in our community college programs, the cost per degree is less.
And the added investment yields an impressive return in other ways. Experts at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education at Teachers College at Columbia University determined that every dollar invested in ASAP generated at least $3.50 per associate degree to taxpayers in the form of things like increased tax revenues and social service savings.
From the standpoint of the ASAP students, every dollar invested in their education returns $12.20 as increased future earnings.
Given those results, we are doing all we can to broaden ASAP. Enrollment is set to rise from 4,000 students last year to more than 13,000 by fall 2017. We expect to reach 25,000 students across CUNY by 2018.
And, perhaps most significantly, as a key part of our expansion, CUNY’s Bronx Community College will become our first campus at which every full-time incoming freshman will enter ASAP.
At Bronx Community College, with some of CUNY’s lowest graduation rates, we will demonstrate that ASAP’s exceptionally promising results can be shared widely. That represents a critical next step–to show that we can obtain the same impressive outcomes as we scale a successful pilot.
In addition, we are also now expanding ASAP strategies to baccalaureate programs. With funding from the Robin Hood Foundation, CUNY is now starting ASAP with an initial group of 250 students entering a four-year institution, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice this fall.
With MDRC, we have started working with the state of Ohio, which is adapting ASAP for three of its community colleges. We’re hopeful that other states will work with us, delivering on shared goal that will have a profound impact on the country’s future.
The key to CUNY’s initiatives is not just the models, but what the students do with these tools. That is the secret ingredient in the formula. By helping them see themselves in such a positive light, by enjoying success, the programs give these young people tangible reasons for believing in themselves and their capabilities. What could offer them greater motivation than that?
As I was preparing for this event, I asked my community college presidents for their ideas, and one told me “you should urge this influential group to use their political clout and community leadership to advocate for higher funding for community colleges.” And, with declining state investment in higher education, I agree that’s a worthy goal.
But my message today is to urge us all to sharpen our focus on programs we can demonstrate are well worth the cost. It’s become almost reflexive for politicians to argue that we can’t improve schools only by throwing money at them. What we are learning in the real-life laboratory of CUNY and at many of your institutions is that by investing in well-designed tools that deliver what educators, political leaders and students and families want, the payoff to our students and our country can be tremendous.
Let’s take advantage of what we know works: smart, targeted investments with measurable impact. These investments will help us address stubborn remedial challenges, dramatically increase retention and graduation rates, provide opportunity to those who have not participated fully in our country’s prosperity, and, if we’re persistent, help America along the path of rising to number one again in educational attainment. That’s the case you and I should be making to political leaders, and I believe it’s one that is hard to argue with.