Worth The Wait

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harvard and princeton have a waiting list and now cuny does as well

by jay hershenson

as the fall semester nears, the city university of new york is brimming with a record number of students-more than the university can accommodate.

for the past 10 years, cuny's baccalaureate programs have seen increasing enrollments even as more rigorous entrance requirements were instituted. now the university's community colleges are swamped by applicants who, like community college applicants nationwide, need only a high school diploma or ged for admission.

for the first time, cuny has established waiting lists for more than 3,000 people who applied after the may 8, 2010, deadline for admission to the university.

but cuny has found a way to turn their wait into a benefit.

the typical community college freshman needs at least one remedial class to prepare for college-level work, although those classes do not count toward a degree. why not place wait-listed students into remedial work in the fall, so they will be ready to enroll in academic courses in january 2011?

that's the idea behind cuny start, which offers prospective students an intensive program in pre-college math or academic reading/writing for 12 hours a week over 13 weeks, in day or evening sessions. for a modest fee and the cost of their schoolbooks they can improve their skills and jumpstart their college career.

cuny start builds on the cuny language immersion program (clip) and college transition initiative (cti), full-time programs that help students develop the skills needed for college-level study.

that includes ged graduates who don't get the results of their tests until june, too late to meet admission deadlines. for such students, the transition to college is a critical time, and maintaining momentum is a high priority.

cuny start represents one of many ways that cuny, like public colleges and universities across the country, is responding creatively to a changing higher education environment, as shrinking state funding conflicts with national imperatives to maintain access and increase the country's college graduates.

demand is surging at the 23 institutions that make up the nation's largest urban public university. in the fall, cuny expects 267,000 students to enroll; that's about 3 percent more than last fall and fully one-third more than 20 years ago.

without doubt, the economic downturn has factored into rising demand for college education, but the economy is only part of the story behind cuny's increasing popularity. since 1999, cuny has added about 65,000 students.

a decade-long academic transformation has created new opportunities for students and reshaped cuny's classrooms.

chancellor matthew goldstein and cuny's board of trustees grabbed headlines in 2001 when they launched the william e. macaulay honors college.

the last decade has also seen the launch of cuny's school of professional studies, offering professional programs in partnership with business and industry. the school also houses cuny's online baccalaureate degree programs. the cuny graduate school of journalism is highly regarded and a cuny school of public health is preparing graduate level health professionals.

the new advanced science research center at the city college of new york, now under construction, will house researchers from across cuny's campuses.

investment has not been limited to the sciences, however. the number of full-time faulty members has risen from less than 6,000 in 1999 to more than 7,100.

encouraging student access and success remains at the heart of cuny's mission. if cuny start represents that commitment writ small, the university's plans to open a new community college, its seventh, demonstrate that mission on a much larger scale.

the college, cuny's first in four decades, is expected to open in midtown manhattan in fall of 2012.

students will enroll full-time for at least the first year and take a common first-year core curriculum including math, professional studies and the college's multidisciplinary city seminar course examining the complexities of new york city.

it's a bold initiative, suited to a higher education environment that demands innovative thinking. just another reason that cuny is increasingly worth the wait.


jay hershenson is senior vice chancellor for university relations and secretary, board of trustees at cuny.

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