CUNY on the News
Posted: August 04, 2013
For years, we've been chronicling the ongoing campaign to raise admissions and academic standards at the City University of New York and restore the school's once-top-shelf reputation. Now there's impressive new evidence of how well that struggle has paid off.
CUNY's City College of New York was just ranked New York's top public college in the annual Forbes magazine rankings and No. 137 among all colleges nationwide - a jump of 232 spots from last year's rankings and 418 since 2011.
That's a stunning development for an institution that 20 years ago was, to be blunt, little more than a glorified high school that offered a diploma most employers considered worthless. Though CUNY was once regarded as "the poor man's Harvard" (or "the Jewish man's Harvard"), it declined dramatically with the introduction of open admissions and the lowering of standards throughout the 1970s and '80s.
Moreover, unlike other national rankings, the one by Forbes - done in conjunction with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity - focuses not on what it takes to get into a college but on what students get out of the experience.
That means things like affordability, student debt, post-graduate success, nationally competitive awards won at the school and preparing students for the workplace. And in those areas, CCNY has made remarkable progress.
In recent years, CCNY has strongly upgraded its professional schools in fields like engineering, architecture and bio-medical education. And a new advanced scientific research center, staffed with a highly regarded cadre of scientists, is nearing completion.
All this has largely been made possible by generous donations, which also speaks to CCNY's academic success: The school has regained the confidence of successful alumni, like Intel co-founder Andrew Grove and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and brought them back into the school's orbit.
CCNY also has seen tremendous success in having its students win National Science Foundation fellowships and now has a thriving honors program. It's compelling evidence that with higher standards comes a genuinely competitive student body.
And a student body, by the way, that's better situated to enter the workforce relatively debt free: Only 15% of CUNY's undergrads rely on federal loans.
It's a remarkable success story any way you cut it. And it's a testament to the importance of standards - and the work of people like former Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and former CUNY Chairman Herman Badillo. Their unceasing efforts have resulted in real academic dividends.
Lessons of Goldstein's success
By ROGER HERTOG
Posted: August 3, 2013
That Forbes recently ranked City College as the top public college in New York is just the most recent testament to the excellence at various campuses of the City University of New York - and only the latest sign of the successes CUNY achieved in Matthew Goldstein's 14 years as chancellor.
Yet there's more to be learned from those successes than even the most well-deserved accolades have captured. Seen in full, the Goldstein era at CUNY offers a template for change that elected city officials would do well to study if they mean to improve the well-being of New York's citizens, especially the neediest among them.
In my view, there were five essential ingredients in the Goldstein strategy.
First, a strategic vision of what needed to be done. In Goldstein's case, that vision had already been laid out in the multivolume study "An Institution Adrift," the work of a task force established by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and chaired by former Yale President Benno Schmidt.
By 1999, the report on how to turn around CUNY's then-alarming conditions - high dropout and low graduation rates, a disproportionate number of academically unqualified students, a dysfunctional system of governance and more - had been approved for implementation by the board.
Second, and no less crucially: a commitment by all key elected officials to support the strategic vision. Resisting any temptation to play politics, Mayor Giuliani and then-Gov. George Pataki were on board with the strategy's broad elements from the first, as, in later years, were Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo. Even more strongly committed was Herman Badillo, the former US congressman then serving as chairman of CUNY's board of trustees.
The third requisite was a strong-minded executive with the courage to make unpopular decisions. This is where Goldstein came in.
In 1999, 87 percent of students admitted to the university's two-year colleges, and 72 percent of those admitted to its four-year colleges, had failed one or more of the university's placement tests — whose purpose was to determine if a student could read, write and understand math at an average high-school level. Immediately on becoming chancellor that year, Goldstein got the Board of Regents to support a new policy that would cease to provide remedial education for incoming students at the senior four-year colleges. That move ended the disastrous open-admissions era at CUNY.
Reinforcing this initiative - and yielding dramatically positive results - was, fourth, an emphasis on excellence at every level and in every area of the institution.
Over the years, entering SAT scores at the most selective of CUNY's colleges rose some 150 points on average. Simultaneously, Goldstein was able to hire almost 3,000 new faculty. In the last five years alone, the university has produced 40 Fulbright scholars, 58 National Science Foundation fellows, seven Truman scholars, and four Rhodes scholars. The number of PhDs awarded has more than doubled, from 230 in Goldstein's first year to almost 500 in 2011-12.
Among the chancellor's boldest moves in this area was the startup of highly reputed new schools of journalism and public health. Most important, the new Macaulay Honors College offers full-tuition, four-year scholarships to the best and brightest of New York's high-school graduates. To date, the combined average SAT score of Macaulay's entering students stands at an impressive 1,382 (out of a possible 1,600) points.
Finally, Goldstein understood that in addition to support from the city and state, CUNY needed to tap private philanthropy - not only for what such new funding would allow the school to accomplish, but also as a magnet to attract other potential donors.
At the start of his tenure, private donors accounted for $50 million a year on average. The university's current fund-raising campaign has raised $1.2 billion in record time, and is on track to raise $3 billion by its self-imposed deadline.
The cumulative effect of these five ingredients has had enormous impact on New York City and its citizens. Goldstein's tenure has shown not only that city schools can be operated at the highest intellectual level but also that, just as they did so legendarily in the past, they can function today as engines of upward mobility for untold numbers of our neediest and our newest.
A final group of statistics tells the story: Today, two-thirds of the students at the CUNY senior colleges have foreign-born parents and come from non-English-speaking homes; some 40 percent are the first generation to attend college, and half have needed to work while attending school.
One can imagine no higher tribute to the outgoing chancellor's accomplishment and no greater longterm gift to all New Yorkers than the adoption by other city and state agencies of the same strategies that fueled his success and their implementation with the same concentrated energy, focus, and intelligence.
Roger Hertog is president of the Hertog Foundation and chairman emeritus of the Manhattan Institute.
CUNY TV Station Turns Over an Old Leaf, Transmitting by Air to Widen Its Reach
By JAMES BARRON
Published: August 1, 2013
The rest of the television industry may be worrying about competition from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But the City University of New York's television operation has started broadcasting the old-fashioned way - over the air.
That is the way most viewers got their television signals before cable and the Internet came along, starting in the days when television was still something of a novelty and programs like "The Honeymooners" and "Your Show of Shows" were hits.
But now, in the wired and wireless world of the 21st century, broadcasting over the air has expanded the reach of CUNY TV beyond the five boroughs, where CUNY TV has had a steady, modest presence on cable systems since the 1980s.
Its fans say it is public television without the pledge drives.
CUNY TV sill reaches the 1.7 million households in the city that have cable. But the over-the-air transmission has, for the first time, put the station on sets in the city that are not connected to cable and in suburban communities where the channel is not carried on local cable systems.
The signal, transmitted from atop an office building in Times Square, covers about 35 miles, far enough to reach White Plains in Westchester County; Levittown on Long Island; Greenwich, Conn.; and Edison, N.J.
The executive director of CUNY TV, Robert S. Isaacson, said the change quadrupled the number of households that could receive its programs.
"This is a miraculous lift in our coverage, in our audience base and in our ability to reach people who want to see our kind of content," Mr. Isaacson said.
Adding an over-the-air signal makes sense, said Mark J. Colombo, owner and editor of the Web site RabbitEars.info.
"Over-the-air TV is still viable," Mr. Colombo said.
"In fact, the latest statistics continue to show that over-the-air television is gaining in acceptance. People are thinking about cutting cable and satellite subscriptions to save money, and they're moving to a combination of free over-the-air TV, which gives them the major networks, plus online video to supplement that."
CUNY TV is broadcasting on Channel 25.3, alongside WNYE-TV, the city-owned station that broadcasts on Channel 25.1 and is operated by NYC Media, part of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. NYC Media also broadcasts hearings from the City Council, news conferences from City Hall and other municipal events on Channel 25.2, known as NYC gov.
(Those channel numbers may confuse cable customers accustomed to a one-number, one-channel lineup. Televisions made in the past few years have built-in tuners that can receive such channels, and converters are available for older sets. CUNY TV remains on Channel 75 on most cable systems in the five boroughs; WNYE-TV is on Channel 74.)
For Mr. Isaacson, whose résumé includes consulting on television for The New York Times, the over-the-air signal was the result of two developments, one a fact of life in the digital age, the other a marriage of sorts with WNYE-TV.
The fact of life was the federally mandated change from analog to digital signal transmission in 2009, a switch that many cable customers were oblivious to. Digital transmission let stations like WNYE-TV broadcast more than one signal over the air at once (though the second and third signals - like CUNY TV's, on Channel 25.3 - can be seen only on sets new enough to receive digital signals, or on older sets with converters).
That increased the number of channels and gave cable-only stations like CUNY TV a chance to find a place on the broadcast dial, something CUNY TV badly wanted.
As Mr. Isaacson put it, "We had to figure a way to get this university off the wire and into the air."
A merger of technical operations with WNYE-TV made it possible. WNYE-TV left its longtime base in Brooklyn — next door to a City University branch, the New York City College of Technology — and moved its broadcast control center into CUNY TV's space at 365 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street, where WNYE could take advantage of CUNY TV's more advanced technology.
Marybeth Ihle, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, said the move "was done to make use of a modern, single, centralized location that was close to public transportation."
The programming on WNYE-TV is separate from that on CUNY TV, though both are locally oriented. Mr. Isaacson said CUNY TV aimed to be "quintessential noncommercial TV, not quintessential public TV."
CUNY TV's week is arranged by subject, with people-oriented programs on Monday, science shows on Tuesday, public affairs programs on Wednesday, foreign-produced programs in their original languages on Thursday and arts programs on Friday.
"More power to PBS," Mr. Isaacson said, "but public stations don't really serve local communities."
To do that, CUNY TV has recruited a number of journalists who had worked in commercial television in New York, among them Gail Yancosek, who was the executive producer of "Good Day New York" in the 1990s.
Working with her are a number of television reporters whose names and faces may be familiar to New York viewers, including Ernabel Demillo, who was a reporter on "Good Day New York" when Ms. Yancosek was in charge and is now the host of a new monthly series called "Asian American Life," and Carol Anne Riddell, who was an education reporter and a weekend anchor at WNBC-TV and is now a reporter and host of a CUNY TV monthly magazine, "Science & U!"
"The most significant difference for me is time: time to tell a story, time to work on a story," Ms. Riddell said. "It's also the time to think.
"I spent most of my career in local news. For me now, a piece could be anything from five or six to seven minutes. That is an eternity in local news. I came from the school of 'Give me your best 90 seconds.' "
(Also listed in Crain's Morning 10 on August 2)