CUF's research inspired a major new policy proposal from City Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams to help the thousands of working-age New Yorkers with some college but no degree return to the City University of New York (CUNY) and complete a credential.
In her speech at the end of March at the Association for a Better New York Power Breakfast, Speaker Adams announced her “support for a CUNY Reconnect Initiative, based on the important research by the Center for an Urban Future.”
CUF’s January 2022 report Reengaging Adult Learners to Complete College Degrees reveals that there are nearly 700,000 working-age New York City residents with some college credits but no degree. The report finds that helping many more of these adults get over the finish line may be New York City’s best opportunity to make progress in boosting the number of New Yorkers with a college credential—and expanding access to the well-paying jobs powering the city’s economic recovery.
This population includes 21 percent of working-age Black New Yorkers, 17 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers, 11 percent of white New Yorkers, and 9 percent of Asian New Yorkers. Underscoring the equity issues at stake, the report notes that Black and Hispanic women comprise 35 percent of working-age New Yorkers with some college but no degree, despite making up just 26 percent of all working-age New Yorkers.
Our report recommends that New York City implement a program modeled on the successful Tennessee Reconnect initiative, which provides last-dollar financial aid to ensure that adult learners can afford to return to college, robust pre-enrollment counseling, and flexible scheduling, all designed to help make college feasible for New Yorkers juggling work and family responsibilities.
In her speech, Speaker Adams went on to say, “We must help recruit these New Yorkers back into CUNY, providing the necessary supports of financial aid, child care, pre-enrollment counseling and flexible scheduling that facilitate their success. This would provide an incredible boon for many working families who have lost advancement opportunities through no fault of their own, but often due to economic, family and health-related circumstances. These New Yorkers need targeted supports to matriculate, and we need to reconnect them to a caring base of support.”
We commend the Council Speaker’s forward-thinking proposal, which could open the door to well-paying jobs for thousands of New Yorkers. Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council, led by the Speaker, should invest in the policies and supports needed to make CUNY Reconnect a reality in the city's FY2023 budget.
CUF has a history of longstanding research on the importance of boosting college completion rates in New York City, including Opportunity Costs: Affording the True Costs of College in NYC; Building an Inclusive Economy in NYC: Boosting College Attainment; Struggling to the Finish Line: Community College Completion in New York State; and Degrees of Difficulty: Boosting College Success in New York City.