The City University of New York (CUNY; pron.: /ˈkjuːni/) is the public university system of New York City. It is the largest urban university in the United States, consisting of 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the doctorate-granting Graduate School and University Center, the City University of New York School of Law, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. More than 270,000 degree-credit students and 273,000 continuing and professional education students are enrolled at campuses located in all five New York City boroughs. Its administrative offices are in Yorkville in Manhattan.
CUNY students hail from 205 countries or territories. The Black, White and Hispanic undergraduate populations each comprise more than a quarter of the student body, and Asian undergraduates make up more than 15 percent. Nearly 60 percent are female, and 29 percent are 25 or older. CUNY graduates include 12 Nobel laureates, a U.S. Secretary of State, a Supreme Court Justice, several mayors, members of Congress, state legislators, scientists and artists.
CUNY is the third-largest university system in the United States, in terms of enrollment, behind the State University of New York (SUNY), and the California State University system. CUNY and SUNY are separate and independent university systems, although both are public institutions that receive funding from New York State. CUNY, however, is additionally funded by the City of New York.
CUNY's history dates back to the formation of the Free Academy in 1847 by Townsend Harris. The school was fashioned as "a Free Academy for the purpose of extending the benefits of education gratuitously to persons who have been pupils in the common schools of the city and county of New York." The Free Academy later became the City College of New York, the oldest institution among the CUNY colleges. Hunter College – so-named in 1914, originally Female Normal and High School and later the Normal College – had existed since 1870, and later expanded into the Bronx in the early 20th century with what became Herbert Lehman College, but CCNY and Hunter resisted merging.
In 1926, in response to the growth in population of the city, the New York State legislature created the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York to integrate, coordinate and expand the institutions of higher education in the city. During the period the Board existed, Brooklyn College (1930), Queens College (1937) and a number of other four-year colleges and two-year community colleges were created.
In 1961, Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the bill that formally created the City University of New York to integrate these institutions, and a new graduate school, together into a coordinated system of higher education for the city, and by 1979, the Board of Higher Education had become the Board of Trustees of the CUNY. Eventually, the system grew to include seven senior colleges, four hybrid schools, seven community colleges, as well as graduate schools and professional programs.
CUNY has historically served a diverse student body, especially those excluded from or unable to afford private universities. Its four-year colleges offered a high quality, tuition-free education to the poor, the working class and the immigrants of New York City who met the grade requirements for matriculated status. Many Jewish academics and intellectuals studied and taught at CUNY in the post-World War I era when some Ivy League universities, such as Yale University, discriminated against Jews. The City College of New York has had a reputation of being "the Harvard of the proletariat." Over its history, CUNY colleges, particularly CCNY, have been involved in various political movements.
As the city's population—and public college enrollment—grew during the early 20th century and the city struggled for resources, the municipal colleges slowly began adopting selective tuition, also known as instructional fees, for a handful of courses and programs. During the Great Depression, with funding for the public colleges severely constrained, limits were imposed on the size of the colleges' free Day Session, and tuition was imposed upon students deemed "competent" but not academically qualified for the day program. Most of these "limited matriculation" students enrolled in the Evening Session, and paid tuition.
Over time, tuition for limited-matriculated students became an important source of system revenues. In fall 1957, for example, nearly 36,000 attended Hunter, Brooklyn, Queens and City Colleges for free, but another 24,000 paid tuition of up to $300 a year — the equivalent of $2,411.98 in 2011. Undergraduate tuition and other student fees in 1957 comprised 17 percent of the colleges' $46.8 million in revenues, about $7.74 million — a figure equivalent to $62.4 million in 2011 buying power.
Demand in the United States for higher education rapidly grew each decade after World War II into the 1970s. The increased demand for limited college slots had the effect in New York City of increasing the competitiveness of the city's system of higher education. By the end of the 1960s, admission to CUNY's flagship City College had become highly competitive[peacock term].
In 1969, a group of Black and Puerto Rican students occupied City College demanding the integration of CUNY, which at the time had an overwhelmingly white student body. The occupation spread to other CUNY campuses, forcing the Board of Trustees to implement a new admissions policy. The doors to CUNY were opened wide to all those demanding entrance, assuring all high school graduates, despite possible inadequacies of preparation, entrance to the University. This policy was known as "open admissions". Remedial education, to supplement the training of under-prepared students, became a significant part of CUNY's offerings.
The effect was instantaneous. Whereas 20,000 freshmen had matriculated in one CUNY institution or another in 1969, 35,000 showed up for registration in the fall of 1970. Forty percent of these newcomers to the senior colleges were open-admissions students. The proportion of Black and Hispanic students in the entering class nearly tripled. That same year, 1970, free tuition was extended to all CUNY students.
In fall 1976, however, during New York City's fiscal crisis, the free tuition policy was discontinued under pressure from the federal government, the financial community that had a role in rescuing the city from bankruptcy, and New York State, which would take over the funding of CUNY's senior colleges. Tuition, which had always been charged at the State University of New York, was instituted at all CUNY colleges.
Following these developments, CUNY students were added to the state's need-based Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, which had originally been created to help private colleges. Full-time students who met the income eligibility criteria were permitted to receive TAP, ensuring for the first time that financial hardship would deprive no CUNY student of a college education. Within a few years, the federal government would create its own need-based program, known as Pell Grants, providing the neediest students with a tuition-free college education. By 2011, nearly six of ten full- time undergraduates qualified for a tuition-free education at CUNY due in large measure to state, federal and CUNY financial aid programs.
CUNY's enrollment dipped after tuition was re-established. Students who had flocked[peacock term] to the University as a cost-free, educational alternative to the State University or a private college, no longer had a financial reason to choose it. Their enrollment at CUNY dropped precipitously; there were further enrollment declines through the 1980s and into the 1990s.
CUNY's prestige also declined in the 1970s and 1980s. Under a new chancellor, Matthew Goldstein, and facing pressure from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, CUNY ended its open admissions policy to the University's four-year colleges in 1999. Critics[who?] had cautioned that the policy change could lead to a drop in enrollment of minority students at CUNY's four-year institutions.
CUNY officials reported that enrollment at its senior colleges increased 10.5% from 1999 to 2002, however. Mean SAT scores of admitted freshmen also rose. CUNY reported that the number of African-American students at its senior colleges had increased in the same time period, while changes in the proportions of other ethnic groups were "minimal." The University reported that two-thirds of its entering class were minority students.
CUNY students who are not directly admitted to the senior colleges because they do not meet academic admissions standards can choose to enroll in an associate degree program at one of CUNY’s community colleges, take part in "immersion" programs offered in the summer and winter months, find public or private tutoring, or participate in the one-semester "Prelude to Success" program taught by community college faculty at senior colleges. The graduates of the community college programs then earn admission to the senior colleges.
The forerunner of today's City University of New York was governed by the Board of Education of New York City. Members of the Board of Education, chaired by the President of the board, served as ex-officio trustees. For the next four decades, the board members continued to serve as ex-officio trustees of the College of the City of New York and the city's other municipal college, the Normal College of the City of New York.
In 1900, the New York State Legislature created separate boards of trustees for the College of the City of New York and the Normal College, which became Hunter College in 1914. In 1926, the Legislature established the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York, which assumed supervision of both municipal colleges.
In 1961, the New York State Legislature established the City University of New York, uniting what had become seven municipal colleges at the time: The City College of New York, Hunter College, Brooklyn College, Queens College, Staten Island Community College, Bronx Community College and Queensborough Community College. In 1979, the CUNY Financing and Governance Act was adopted by the State and the Board of Higher Education officially became The City University of New York Board of Trustees.
Today, the City University is governed by the Board of Trustees composed of 17 members, ten of whom are appointed by the Governor of New York "with the advice and consent of the senate," and five by the Mayor of New York City "with the advice and consent of the senate." The final two trustees are ex-officio members. One is the chair of the university's student senate, and the other is non-voting and is the chair of the university's faculty senate. Both the mayoral and gubernatorial appointments to the CUNY Board are required to include at least one resident of each of New York City's five boroughs. Trustees serve seven-year terms, which are renewable for another seven years. The Chancellor is voted upon by the Board of Trustees, and is the "chief educational and administrative officer" of the City University.
CUNY consists of three different types of institutions: senior colleges, which grant bachelor's degrees and occasionally master's, associate, and doctoral degrees; community colleges, which grant associate's degrees; and graduate/professional schools. CUNY's Law School grants Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees, and the CUNY Graduate Center awards only Ph.D. degrees.
The colleges are listed below, with establishment dates in parentheses.
Chairs of the Board
The CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies, also commonly known as the CUNY Baccalaureate Program or simply CUNY BA was founded in 1971. It is an individualized, University-wide degree where highly motivated, academically superior students work one-on-one with faculty mentors to design their own fields of study. The Program exists to give students an opportunity to pursue a course of study that may not exist within the current framework of CUNY. Part of the eligibility criteria includes demonstrating a desire and plan to pursue an area of concentration (like a major) that transcends the traditional college offerings. Students have created areas of concentration ranging from "20th Century American Literature" and "Adaptive Physical Education for Vulnerable Populations," to "World Politics and Social Change" and "Zoological Photography." Students must enroll in one of the CUNY colleges in order to participate; they then have access to courses and opportunities throughout the University. Additional admissions criteria include having completed at least 15 college credits with a 2.50 GPA or higher. The average GPA for admission is typically about 3.25, which means that a large portion of students enter with GPAs of 3.8 and higher. Given the rigorous admission process it is not surprising that CUNY BA boasts a 70% graduation rate within an average of 2.2 years and that 60% graduate with academic honors.
The brainchild of CUNY chancellor Matthew Goldstein, CUNY Honors College was to be an independent institution within the university. However, support for existing honors programs at CUNY colleges and institutional opposition resulted in it being downgraded to a program. Now known as The Macaulay Honors College University Scholars Program, it graduated its first class in 2005, attracting students with a mean high school GPA of 3.5 and SAT scores of 1365 for the Class of 2009.
In July 2006 Dr. Ann Kirschner was appointed Dean of William E. Macaulay Honors College after a nationwide search. The standards of the Honors College continued to rise as well, with incoming freshmen having an average of 93.8 and SAT scores of 1381. Graduating high school students with Ivy League caliber academic records have given the Honors College a closer look as a result, and this has had a trickle-down effect in improving the image of CUNY as a whole, which prior to the inception of the HC had been criticized as 'an institution adrift' by the Giuliani administration.
As an incentive to students, University Scholars receive a free tuition, a laptop, a "cultural passport" that offers free or reduced-admission to various cultural institutions and venues in New York City, and a $7500 expense account that may be used for research and/or study abroad. Unlike honors programs at individual CUNY colleges, Macaulay Honors College students must be accepted into and begin the program as freshmen. They currently study at one of the participating senior CUNY colleges (Queens, Hunter, Staten Island, Lehman, Baruch, Brooklyn, and City), as well as taking part in cross-campus activities and programs. Institutional barriers that would allow cross campus enrollment in academic programs have not yet been eliminated.
In September 2006, The City University of New York received a $30,000,000 gift from philanthropist and City College alumnus, William E. Macaulay, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of First Reserve Corporation. It is the largest single donation in the history of CUNY and has been used to buy a landmark building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that is to become the permanent home of the Honors College, and will add support to its endowment. Macaulay is now an accredited degree-granting institution, complete with its own College Council, having graduated its first class in 2011.
CUNY has its own police force whose duties are to protect and serve all students and faculty members, and enforce all state and city laws at all of CUNY's universities. The force has more than 600 officers, making it one of the largest police forces in New York City.
The Public Safety Department came under heavy criticism, from student groups, after several students protesting tuition increases tried to occupy the lobby of the Baruch College. The occupiers were forcibly removed from the area and several were arrested on November 21, 2011.
City University Television (CUNY TV)
CUNY also has a cable TV service, CUNY TV (channel 75 on Time Warner) which airs tapes of freshman level survey telecourses, old and foreign films, and panel discussions in various languages.
City University Film Festival (CUFF)
CUFF is CUNY's official film festival. The festival was founded in 2009 by Hunter College student Daniel Cowen.
The City University of New York boasts alumni, whose professions range from politics to medicine.