City University of New York

City University of New York
Established 1961[1]
Type Public System
Budget $2.3 billion[2]
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
Academic staff 6,100
Students 480,000[3]
Location New York City, New York

The City University of New York (CUNY; play /ˈkjuːni/) is the public university system of New York City, with its administrative offices in Yorkville in Manhattan.[4] It is the largest urban university in the United States, consisting of 23 institutions: 11 senior colleges, six 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 260,000 degree-credit students and 273,000 continuing and professional education students are enrolled at campuses located in all five New York City boroughs.

CUNY students hail from 205 countries. 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.

Millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds have been awarded to CUNY’s projects and programs, providing more opportunities for research, training and expansion. Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who recently championed higher education as critical to the nation's economic recovery efforts, said enrollment at City University of New York is at its highest level in more than three decades.

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 Hebert Lehman College, but CCNY and Hunter resisted merging.[5]

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. Through this agency, the state legislature asserted considerable control over the city's higher education. During the period the Board existed, John Jay College (1925), Brooklyn College (1930) and Queens College (1937) were created, along with a number of 2-year community colleges.[5]

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 coordinate system of higher education for the city, and by 1979, the Board of Higher Education had become the Board of Trustees of the CUNY.[5] Eventually, the system grew to include seven senior colleges, four hybrid schools, six 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. CUNY offered a high quality, tuition-free education to the poor, the working class and the immigrants of New York City until 1975, when the City's fiscal crisis forced the imposition of tuition. Many Jewish academics and intellectuals studied and taught at CUNY in the post-World War I era when Ivy League universities, such as Yale University, discriminated against Jews.[6] The City College of New York has had a reputation of being "the Harvard of the proletariat."[7]

Over its history, CUNY and its colleges, especially CCNY, have been involved in various political movements. It was known as a hotbed of socialistic support in the earlier 20th century.[8] CUNY also lent some support to various conferences, such as the Socialist Scholars Conference.[9]

CUNY's tradition of diversity continues today, with much of its student body new immigrants to New York City, representing 172 countries.[10]

Open admissions and remedial education

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.[citation needed]

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 ground-breaking 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 and dramatic. Whereas 20,000 freshmen had matriculated in one CUNY institution or another in 1969, more than 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.[citation needed]

Facing a fiscal crisis in 1975, the city imposed tuition on CUNY in that year. Middle-class students who had flocked to CUNY because it offered a cost-free alternative to the state university or a private college no longer had a reason to prefer it. Their enrollment at CUNY dropped precipitously and CUNY faced declines in enrollment through the 1980s and into the 1990s.

The end of open admissions

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 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.[citation needed]

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 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. College presidents report directly to the Board. The Chancellor is voted upon by the Board of Trustees, and is the "chief educational and administrative officer" of the City University.

Unlike some state college systems, CUNY in its early years did not operate as a central authority to the colleges. The central administration had limited power over the colleges. This is partly because most of the senior colleges (namely Brooklyn, Hunter, Queens, and City) predate CUNY and were thus established by mandate of the New York State Legislature, which has institutionalized the autonomy of the colleges. Veteran college presidents and faculty had typically viewed CUNY as a loose confederation of individual colleges rather than a unified university system. Nevertheless, in recent years and at the behest of the Governor and the Mayor, the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor have, through the power of the purse, succeeded in weakening the college presidents and faculty and consolidating executive powers to themselves.[citation needed]


CUNY consists of three different types of institutions: senior colleges, which grant bachelor's degrees and occasionally master's and associates degrees; community colleges, which grant associate's degrees; and graduate/professional schools. CUNY's Law School grants Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees, and Ph.D. degrees are awarded only by the CUNY Graduate Center.

The colleges are listed below, with establishment dates in parentheses.

Senior colleges

Community colleges

Graduate and professional schools


Programs hold an institutional level below that of a college within the CUNY system.

CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies

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.

William E. Macaulay Honors College

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.[11] As of May 2010, pending official confirmation of the New York State Board of Education, Macaulay Honors College will cease to be a 'program' and enter the CUNY system as joint-degree granting four-year college.[12]

Public safety

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 currently has more than 600 officers, making it one of the largest police forces in New York City.

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 some very prominent alumni, whose professions range from politics to medicine.[13]

City College

  • Herman Badillo (1951), Civil rights activist and the first Puerto Rican elected to the U.S. Congress
  • Michele Forsten (1976), Co-founder, New York City Lesbian Cancer Support Consortium
  • Abraham Foxman, National director, Anti-Defamation League
  • Felix Frankfurter (1902), U.S. Supreme Court Justice
  • William Hallett Greene (1884)), First black graduate of City College and first black member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps
  • Guillermo Linares (1975), New York City Council member, first Dominican-American City Council member and Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs
  • Lisa Nakamura (1993) (1996), Associate Professor of the Institute of Communication Research and Asian Studies School at the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana
  • Colin Powell (1958), Former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State
  • Faith Ringgold (1955), Feminist, writer and artist
  • A. M. Rosenthal (1949), former executive editor of The New York Times who championed the publication of the Pentagon Papers; Pulitzer prize winning journalist expelled from Poland in 1959 for his reporting on the nation’s government and society
  • Jonas Salk (1934), Developed the first polio vaccine
  • Daniel Schorr (1939), Emmy award winning broadcast journalist for CBS-TV and National Public Radio

Baruch College

Hunter College

  • Bella Abzug (1942), Feminist; political activist; U.S. Representative, 1971–1977
  • Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick (1963), First Hispanic woman named to the New York State Court of Appeals
  • Robert R. Davila (1965), President of Gallaudet University and advocate for the rights of the hearing impaired
  • Ruby Dee (1945), Emmy-nominated actress and civil rights activist
  • Martin Garbus (1955), First amendment attorney
  • Florence Howe (1950), founder of women's studies and founder/publisher of the Feminist Press/CUNY
  • Audre Lorde (1959), African-American lesbian poet, essayist, educator and activist
  • Soia Mentschikoff (1934), first woman partner of a major law firm; first woman elected president of the Association of American Law Schools
  • Thomas J. Murphy, Jr. (1973) – Three-term mayor of Pittsburgh, PA, 1994–2006
  • Pauli Murray (1933), first African-American woman named an Episcopal priest; human rights activist; lawyer and co-founder of N.O.W

John Jay College

Brooklyn College

Queens College

  • Joy Behar – comedienne and co-host of The View
  • Robert Bertoldi – Class of '76. CFO of Amphion Innovations PLC and co-founder of VennWorks LLC.
  • Frank M. Boccio- Executive Vice President and CAO, New York Life Insurance Company
  • Lawrence Cohen – Consultant and Entrepreneur. Former President and CEO of The Merv Griffin Group of Companies
  • Jerry Colonna – Well-known venture capitalist and entrepreneur coach
  • Joseph Crowley – Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • Linda Eagle – Founder and President, The Edcomm Group Banker's Academy (1989–2009).
  • Daniel Goodman – CEO of Goodman Strategies
  • Alan Hevesi – former New York State Comptroller, former New York State Assemblyman, former Queens College professor
  • Nathan Leventhal – Former President of Lincoln Center
  • Allan Loren – Former Chairman & CEO, Dun & Bradstreet Corporation
  • Ruth Madoff – Wife of Bernard L. Madoff
  • Helen Marshall – Queens Borough President
  • Donna Orender – WNBA president
  • Leonard Schutzman – Chief Financial Officer, PepsiCo
  • Jerry Seinfeld – Actor and comedian
  • Charles Wang – founder of Computer Associates, owner of the New York Islanders

See also


  1. ^ Year of consolidation of constituent schools.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "[1]."
  4. ^ "Administrative Offices." City University of New York. Retrieved on May 4, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c Fitzpatrick, John. "City University of New York" U.S. History Encyclopedia
  6. ^ See, e.g., Joining the Club: A History of Jews at Yale by Dan A. Oren (Yale University Press 1985)
  7. ^ Leveling the Playing Field: Justice, Politics, and College Admissions by Robert K. Fullinwider, Judith Lichtenberg (Rowman & Littlefield 2004); City on a Hill: Testing the American Dream at City College by James Traub (Perseus 1995)
  8. ^ When the Old Left Was Young: Student Radicals and America's First Mass Student Movement, 1929–1941 (book review), The Nation, May 1994
  9. ^ Cf. notes from CUNY Chancellor Murphy to leaders of the Socialist Scholars Conference. 1986 Memo from Bogdan Denitch to Joseph S. Murphy, Chancellor City University of New York in 1980s. "This memo was the opening channel for several hundred thousand dollars to be used in the Socialist Scholars Conference account. Murphy supported the SSC [Socialist Scholars Conference] until his tragic death in an automobile collision in Ethiopia on January 17, 1998."
  10. ^ About CUNY
  11. ^ "William E. Macaulay, City College Graduate And Chairman and CEO of First Reserve, Donates Record $30 Million To CUNY Honors College", The CUNY Newswire, Wednesday, September 13, 2006
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ "Examples of DISTINGUISHED CUNY ALUMNI'S COMMITMENT TO FREEDOM". Let Freedom Ring. The City University of New York. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  14. ^ Morris, Bob. "Cable's First Lady Of Explicit", The New York Times, June 23, 1996. Accessed December 3, 2007. "At 17, Ms. Byrd got her graduate equivalency diploma and then pursued advertising design at Baruch College but dropped out in her senior year.
  15. ^ Assemblyman Stanley's Legislative Website. Accessed August 27, 2007.

External links

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