Degrees of Difficulty: Boosting College Success in New York City

Report - December 2017

Degrees of Difficulty: Boosting College Success in New York City

New York City has a college success problem. Today, far too few New Yorkers who graduate high school are succeeding in college, with serious consequences for their economic mobility. To lift more of its residents into the middle class, the city will need to make dramatic improvements to its college completion rates.

by Tom Hilliard

Tags: higher education community colleges economic opportunity human capital

New York City’s high school graduation rate hit an all-time high of 76 percent in 2016, up from 50 percent in 2000.1 This is a tremendous accomplishment, and a credit to the educational reforms put in place over the past 15 years by Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio. But if New York City is going to lift more of its residents into the middle class, it will need to go beyond getting New Yorkers to the high school finish line. To expand opportunity in today’s economy, policymakers and education officials in New York will need to make similarly dramatic improvements to the rate at which New Yorkers earn a college credential. 

Today, far too few New Yorkers who receive a high school diploma are succeeding in college. Only 22 percent of students who enter community college associate’s degree programs at the City University of New York (CUNY) earn a degree in three years.2 In some communities, the completion rate is even lower: 16 percent at Bronx Community College and 19 percent at Borough of Manhattan Community College.3 

The graduation rates are also alarmingly low at many of CUNY’s four-year colleges, hovering at 55 percent after six years.4 Just 27 percent of students enrolling in baccalaureate programs at Medgar Evers College earned a bachelor’s degree in that time.5 The completion rates were only marginally higher at the New York City College of Technology (32 percent) and York College (41 percent). Even at City College, the six-year graduation rate is only 55 percent.6

These low college completion rates are particularly troubling at a time when a college credential has become the floor to achieving economic success. Indeed, 20 of the 25 fastest-growing occupations in the city that pay over $50,000 annually require a college degree.7 Citywide, the average working adult with only a high school diploma earns 32 percent less annually than a worker with an associate’s degree ($27,259 a year versus $36,101) and less than half the earnings of a New Yorker with a bachelor’s degree ($54,939).8  

Fortunately, New York City is moving in the right direction. Graduation rates at CUNY’s community colleges have steadily improved over the past eight years—from 13 percent to 22 percent. Meanwhile, CUNY has put in place innovative initiatives aimed at boosting student success, including the nationally renowned Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative, and Mayor de Blasio has scaled up a promising effort to boost postsecondary readiness among the city’s public school students.

But with nearly 8 in 10 students at the city’s community colleges failing to earn an on-time credential—along with nearly half of students at CUNY’s senior colleges—New York needs to make significantly more progress in tackling its college success problem. This report identifies the multiple barriers to student success and advances practical strategies to get more New Yorkers to graduation day. 

This report, the latest in a series of studies by the Center for an Urban Future examining opportunities to expand economic mobility in New York City, takes an in-depth look at college readiness and success among the city’s public high school students. It explores opportunities to dramatically boost the rate at which New York City’s students enter a best-fit college and graduate with a degree or other credential. 

Funded by The Clark Foundation, this report draws on data furnished by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and CUNY, as well as data prepared by the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the Higher Education Services Corporation, Graduate NYC, and the Research Alliance for New York City Schools. In addition, our research included dozens of interviews and focus groups with officials at DOE, CUNY, high schools and colleges, affinity groups, and community-based organizations, as well as leading academic researchers, policy advocates, and high school and college students from across the five boroughs.

It may come as a surprise to many that New York City has a college degree attainment problem. After all, New York is home to an almost unparalleled concentration of highly educated people.9 However, more than 3.3 million city residents over age 25 lack an associate’s degree or higher level of college attainment.10 The result is that, while New York City boasts large numbers of highly educated residents, the share of residents with a college degree is lower than that of many other U.S. cities—behind Washington, San Francisco, Boston, and Denver, among others—and the distribution of degree-holders is wildly uneven across the five boroughs. 

Although 60 percent of Manhattan residents over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the rate is just 19 percent in the Bronx—the second-lowest rate among the nation’s 100 largest counties. The college attainment rate is particularly low in several of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods, including Soundview, where just 12 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree, Brownsville (11 percent), and Mott Haven (9 percent).11

The good news is that a growing number of New Yorkers are graduating high school and enrolling in college. In fact, New York City provides college access to more high school graduates than most other major cities. In 2014, 77 percent of the city’s on-time high school graduates enrolled in college the following September, compared to 62 percent in Chicago.12

Unfortunately, too few students in New York are succeeding once they set foot on a college campus.

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools tracked the entire population of students who entered public high schools in 2003—some 64,000 ninth graders—for ten years to learn more about their college trajectories.13 The data set included all of the city’s high school graduates, including those attending top performing public high schools such as Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. Yet only 44 percent of students who graduated from high school on time obtained a college degree by spring 2013, six years later, and another 13 percent were still enrolled.14

The rates of college success are significantly worse for the city’s low-income students.15 Just 33 percent of on-time high school graduates in the bottom quarter of family income ($30,424 or lower) obtained a college degree, compared to 52 percent of students in the top quarter ($56,492 or higher).16

An educational pipeline in which only four in ten on-time high school graduates achieve a college degree is failing young adults, employers, and the city’s economy. “It’s not acceptable to have such low completion rates at our colleges and universities,” says Stanley Litow, former president of the IBM International Foundation and the city’s deputy chancellor for schools during the Dinkins administration. “This is a serious crisis. If we can’t improve college readiness and college completion, a large number of students—and particularly low income students—are not going to be successful.”

The biggest opportunity to move the needle on college success in New York lies with CUNY. More than 240,000 students are pursuing their associate’s or bachelor’s degrees at CUNY, the largest urban higher education system in the United States. Six out of every ten New York City high school graduates entering college attend CUNY institutions, and roughly half of all incoming CUNY first-year students attend community colleges.17

CUNY arguably provides New York City’s most reliable springboard to the middle class, and is far more effective in that role than colleges in most states. A national study by the economist Raj Chetty and colleagues, which analyzed the impact on economic mobility across generations of virtually every higher education institution in the United States, found that CUNY colleges accounted for six of the ten colleges with the highest rates of inter-generational economic mobility.18

CUNY has also showed more innovative spirit than most college networks in seeking to boost college success, launching path-breaking programs like ASAP, CUNY Start, and College Now. Yet, even with these important efforts, an alarming share of New Yorkers who enroll in CUNY institutions never receive a credential.

Of the seven CUNY community colleges, none has a three-year graduation rate higher than 30 percent, save for Guttman Community College, which was established in 2012 to serve as a laboratory for innovative student success strategies and, with fewer than 1,000 full-time students, is by far the smallest in the system. At five of the seven, the graduation rate is under 23 percent. 

Low graduation rates go hand in hand with high dropout rates. At all of those campuses except Guttman, at least half of incoming first-year students had dropped out within six years (although about one in six transferred out of the CUNY system, where their outcomes could not be tracked). The dropout percentage was particularly high at Bronx Community College (59 percent) and Hostos Community College (55 percent).

Half of all incoming first-year students also drop out within three years at CUNY’s four comprehensive colleges, which offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs. At Medgar Evers College, for example, only one out of four students (24 percent) earns an associate’s or bachelor’s degree within six years, while 64 percent drop out.19

Although CUNY’s seven senior colleges post higher graduation rates, they too struggle with college success. Roughly 55 percent of incoming first-year students graduate from the senior colleges with a bachelor’s degree in six years. Yet only one, Baruch, has a six-year graduation rate above 70 percent. There is clear room for improvement at institutions such as York College (41 percent) and Lehman College (50 percent). Overall, at nine of the 11 CUNY colleges offering bachelor’s programs, the six-year graduation rate is under 60 percent.

These challenges disproportionately affect students of color, who comprise 79 percent of all CUNY undergraduates and 85 percent of students at its community colleges.20 A June 2017 study by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools found that black and Latino students dropped out without a degree more often than white and Asian students, causing racial achievement gaps to widen slightly after students left high school.21 

New York is far from the only city with low college completion rates.22 College success is a major problem for urban systems of higher education nationwide, and New York City’s system in particular is faced with complex challenges compounded by poverty, underinvestment of public dollars, and the many competing pressures on low-income students. But if New York is to make more substantial and lasting progress in reducing inequality and expanding economic opportunity, the city and state will have to make tackling the college success problem a top priority. 

A host of factors contribute to the city’s troubling college completion rates. Too many students enter CUNY campuses wholly unprepared academically and socially to succeed in college. Many low-income students struggle to navigate the high school-to-college transition, yet few students receive adequate advisement in either high school or college. Perhaps most important, a host of financial burdens—including living expenses, books and computers, and even the cost of a MetroCard—regularly cause students to drop out. Our research identified eight core problem areas that are dragging down college success rates and derailing students from the path to a degree. 


Finding the Gaps: The Obstacles to College Success 

Financial burdens make staying in college unsustainable for many students. A significant share of students who drop out of CUNY colleges and community colleges do so because of financial pressures. Seventy-one percent of students attending CUNY community colleges and 54 percent of those enrolled in CUNY’s senior colleges live in households earning less than $30,000 a year.23 More than half of all community college students have an annual household income of less than $20,000. For many of these students, the cost of attending school— and importantly, not simply the cost of tuition—simply becomes untenable. 

Even though CUNY tuition is relatively affordable and the vast majority of its students qualify for financial aid, countless low-income students get tripped up by other everyday expenses, from meals to day care to the cost of a MetroCard. For students living at home, CUNY estimates indirect costs of nearly $10,000 per year, in addition to tuition fees. For students living on their own, that estimate more than doubles.

The pressure to work while in school poses additional burdens; 53 percent of all CUNY students report working for pay. Meanwhile, numerous students end up losing their financial aid—sometimes because of simple application mistakes, but often because state and federal tuition assistance grants expire long before many students have completed their coursework.

Administrators at Kingsborough Community College, for instance, discovered that three-quarters of students who dropped out after their first year had financial red flags on their account: half owed money to one college office or another, and one-quarter had lost their financial aid. Leaders at other colleges recount similar experiences. “Poverty is the number-one reason community college students are dropping out,” says Gail Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College. “They have to work.” 

Too many low-income students struggle to obtain—or hold onto—financial aid under the state’s generous but deeply flawed TAP program.New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is more generous than most other state need-based financial aid programs, covering up to $5,165 per year in tuition costs. Yet because of TAP’s burdensome rules and restrictions, countless students exhaust their financial aid well before they complete their coursework and numerous other low income students never qualify or lose eligibility. 

The state does not track how many students exhaust TAP eligibility, but sources interviewed for this report say the number may be well into the tens of thousands each year. TAP provides three years of funding for students seeking an associate’s degree and four years for students seeking a bachelor’s degree—a much shorter eligibility period than federal Pell Grants. At CUNY, for example, only about four in ten of the 29,000 students who enrolled in fall 2010 and graduated in six years completed within the TAP eligibility period (although some students may have additional semesters of eligibility if they left and then re-enrolled).24 Furthermore, some college students leave without a degree after burning through their TAP benefits or take out burdensome student loans. Students obligated to take developmental education courses are far more likely to exhaust TAP early, since developmental education courses qualify for financial aid but provide no credit toward graduation. 

In addition, several classes of students are effectively barred from accessing TAP benefits, including most of the 103,000 students attending CUNY on a part-time basis and students who want to accelerate their path to a degree by studying in the summer.25 Others receive lower benefits, notably married independent students.26

High schools are not adequately preparing students for college-level work. Far too many students graduate high school wholly unprepared to succeed academically in college. In 2016, just 41 percent of graduating high school seniors met CUNY’s college readiness standard.27 By graduation, just half of all seniors have taken and passed even one approved rigorous college preparatory course or assessment. 

The Department of Education also tracks the number of graduating seniors who pass at least one such course or assessment. In 2016, just over half (52 percent) did. At 36 city high schools, more than 90 percent of students passed at least one approved rigorous preparatory course or assessment, but at 48 high schools, fewer than 10 percent of students did.28 Meanwhile, 39 percent of the city’s high schools do not offer a college-prep curriculum of algebra 2, physics, and chemistry, according to the Center for New York City Affairs.29 As of 2015, more than half of all high schools in New York City did not offer a single advanced placement course in math. 

High schools and colleges lack essential advisement support. Many of the low-income students in New York City’s high schools and CUNY colleges could benefit from counseling and advising services at various points along their path to a college degree—from applying to college and filling out financial aid forms to choosing a major and navigating the sometimes overwhelming mix of course options. Yet, both in the city’s public high schools and at CUNY campuses, strong advisement is in extremely short supply.

At New York City high schools, one school counselor serves an average of 221 students.30 At one in six schools, each counselor serves 300 or more students. While private high schools typically boast a college access office with several full-time staff who can meet with students every week, many public high schools lack even a single counselor devoted full-time to college access.

The advisement gap in New York grows even wider as students arrive in college. CUNY officials declined to provide student-to-advisor ratios, arguing that the variety of advising models across campuses make a single metric misleading.31 But executives of CUNY colleges and practitioners familiar with the colleges describe extremely high ratios of students per academic advisor, on the order of 600 to 1,000 students for each advisor.

Inadequate access to advisement is an underappreciated problem in a city where 52 percent of community college students are the first in their family to attend college, half are working in a job, and 16 percent are supporting children.32 For many of these students, navigating the transition from high school to college is an unfamiliar and challenging experience. For many other students, the barriers they encounter in other parts of their lives often ripple into their college experience and impact their ability to do all the things needed to keep them on the path to graduation.

“The structure of college financial aid and admissions are broken in ways that necessitate a much more intense counseling system,” says Joshua Steckel, senior college and career planning manager at the DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness (OPSR). 

Colleges offer students too many choices with too little guidance. The lack of counseling options is compounded by a “cafeteria” model of education that predominates at all but a handful of CUNY institutions.33 Throughout the CUNY system, courses and programs of study are offered in an unstructured way, with little guidance to help students make decisions that determine whether they graduate on time with a marketable degree. Though this type of educational model is common at colleges and universities across the country, many of the educational experts we interviewed say that it presents a particular challenge for many of the first-generation and low-income students enrolled at CUNY. 

“At every one of our colleges, you see dozens of degree programs,” says Eric Hofmann, assistant dean at LaGuardia Community College. “It’s too many choices.”

A number of colleges around the country are working to clarify students’ choices and structure their route to a degree, an approach known as “guided pathways.” Colleges that use the guided pathways approach give students clearer choices that help them build academic momentum. Within the CUNY system, Guttman Community College and the expanding ASAP program have become nationally known for their guided pathways strategies. However, these programs only serve a small portion of CUNY students. 

Too many students are pushed into developmental education, a track that greatly increases the chances of dropping out. Roughly 80 percent of students entering CUNY community colleges each year are placed into developmental education based on a series of assessment tests they take between the start of high school and the start of their first college semester. These students, found lacking college readiness in math, reading, and/or writing, must then complete non-credit remedial courses intended to prepare them for credit bearing coursework. However, remedial students are far more likely to drop out by the end of their first year and the vast majority will fail to graduate with a degree, while using up their limited financial aid dollars in the process. In fact, nearly 90 percent fail to get a degree within the usual timeframe.34 

It might be assumed that the students’ lack of academic readiness account for the poor outcomes. But study after study shows that similar students placed into credit-bearing courses succeed at a much higher rate.35 Community college leaders now know that with the right supports, many first-year students can accelerate their progress through developmental education or even move directly into credit-bearing math and English coursework. A more effective, evidence-based system could enable thousands of college students to pass credit-bearing college courses more quickly and begin working toward a credential.

Until recently, CUNY’s efforts to implement alternative approaches proceeded slowly. Today, the most promising programs serve only a tiny fraction of all students placed into developmental education. To its credit, however, CUNY launched an ambitious initiative in fall 2016 to overhaul its broken placement and remediation system. This promising initiative has the potential to improve CUNY’s ability to accurately place students into developmental education, build stronger supports for students who take either a developmental education course or innovatively designed gateway math courses, and provide faculty with a more decisive role in exiting students out of developmental education. Much of the success of CUNY’s initiative will depend on the willingness and capacity of the individual CUNY community colleges to fully implement it at scale.

New York has not fully leveraged community-based organizations into its support structure for college access and success.New York City is home to dozens of community-based organizations that work to support students in the public education system and help young people achieve their college aspirations. But the city lacks a broad strategy to leverage the contributions of these organizations, or to rigorously evaluate their strategies in order to identify and replicate the most effective interventions.

 Throughout the five boroughs, community-based organizations offer critically valuable services to aspiring college students, from deep cultural knowledge to credibility with students to a willingness to road test new approaches. Unfortunately, most have not succeeded in building strong relationships with DOE, CUNY, or other educational institutions. The result is that limited resources are used inefficiently, students fall through the cracks between organizations and schools, and timely, effective interventions may be a matter of luck rather than organized practice.

“There are a lot of educational nonprofits working in New York City,” says Janice Bloom, co-director of College Access: Research and Action (CARA), a leading nonprofit focused on postsecondary guidance for first-generation college students. “But there’s no city-wide game plan on how they should work with schools and colleges, or which ones they should work with.” 

Declining state funding for CUNY has hampered promising efforts to boost college success. In recent years, state support for CUNY has failed to keep pace with the significant growth in the university’s student population. In 2009, the state covered 60 percent of the cost of tuition and fees in both direct aid to colleges and financial aid to students, and students paid 28 percent of their own tuition and fees. By 2016, the state was paying only 54 percent and students were paying 35 percent.

The state’s declining support has prevented CUNY from investing in additional full-time faculty, online education, a more robust expansion of ASAP, and initiatives that would support student success—such as student advising and faculty mentoring. “We are in the worst fiscal shape of my memory, particularly at the four-year colleges,” says one longtime CUNY official. The state’s Excelsior Scholarship may help at the margins by attracting additional students to the CUNY system, but program design elements that restrict eligibility and impose post-graduation residency requirements are likely to limit its value to prospective CUNY students.

New York City has increased its funding of CUNY’s community colleges over the years, but its funding of CUNY’s senior colleges has remained at $32 million for the past two decades, and now covers only 1 percent of their operating costs. 

What’s at Stake for New York?

New York has been at the forefront of efforts to lift residents out of poverty, thanks to recent efforts like Mayor de Blasio’s universal pre-kindergarten initiative and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. But to help more New Yorkers actually climb into the middle class, state and city policymakers will also need to double down on efforts to improve student success.

Over the past half-century, multiple avenues into the middle class have shrunk to one: obtaining an education or workforce credential beyond the high school level. The converging forces of automation, computerization, and foreign outsourcing have rapidly eroded jobs for young adults with only a high school diploma or equivalency. Employers seem to value postsecondary credentials more each year.

In New York City, the Great Recession accelerated the erosion of low-skilled jobs. Since 2008, the number of workers with a bachelor’s degree rose by 6 percent and the number with an associate’s degree jumped by 48 percent. But the number of workers with a high school diploma or equivalency dropped by a startling 20 percent.

New York City’s future economic growth in the emerging knowledge economy is also at stake. The city needs to significantly boost the number of adults with postsecondary education to meet employer demand, especially in technical fields. 

Verizon Communications, for example, hires 12,000 to 15,000 entry-level staff every year, andDirector of Workforce Performance Michelle Watts estimates more than half of the company’s hires have college degrees. “What we value is not only their academic skills, but also their ability to continue learning and the life skills they bring,” she says. “It prepares them very well for leadership.”

It is entirely possible for New York to move the needle on student success. Doing so, however, will require a coordinated effort to increase both academic and non academic supports, improve college readiness, and help more students afford the pursuit of a college degree.

Although leaders at CUNY and the city’s Department of Education have a major role to play in improving rates of student success, they cannot do it alone. New York City’s college success problem requires a new level of leadership and support from Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo. Although the mayor and governor have each launched important educational reforms—including the governor’s free college tuition plan and the mayor’s universal pre-kindergarten initiative—neither has made improving college success a top priority. This needs to change. As we detail in the report, there is much that the state and city can do to boost rates of student success.

At the state level, the governor and legislators should go beyond their recent efforts to make college more affordable and support new efforts at CUNY and the State University of New York (SUNY) specifically geared to improving student success. We suggest creating a Student Success Fund—a new pool of money that would empower CUNY to take on a host of student success initiatives. These initiatives could include expanding the successful ASAP initiative, increasing the number of college advisors, developing faculty mentoring programs, designing corequisite instruction models that bypass developmental education, and creating emergency microgrants to keep students from dropping out due to sudden crises.

At the city level, Mayor de Blasio ought to include new efforts to increase college success as part of his agenda to reduce inequality. His administration could play a particularly important role in helping the city’s low-income public college students overcome the financial burdens that derail so many on their paths to a degree. In particular, the mayor should support free MetroCards for all community college students, a move that would address one the key non-tuition related costs that contributes to the high dropout rate. CUNY’s highly successful ASAP initiative already provides free monthly MetroCards among its core supports, but this major incentive should be expanded to community college students throughout the CUNY system.

At CUNY, innovative programs and interventions have begun to take root, with meaningful gains for many students, but there is still much work to be done. CUNY should follow through on its promising initiative to expand the use of alternatives to remediation, which could help scores of CUNY students avoid the trap of taking courses without earning credits. In addition, CUNY should develop and scale a version of ASAP for four-year colleges, and shift more of its campuses to a guided pathways framework to streamline the often-overwhelming path to a degree.

At DOE, substantial gains have been made in high school graduation and college enrollment rates, but much more needs to be done to prepare students to succeed when they arrive at college. DOE should establish a full-time college counselor at every high school, expand the Office of Postsecondary Readiness and give it a leadership role in DOE’s college access initiatives, and overhaul math instruction in the city’s high schools, among other strategies designed to better prepare students for college.

Finally, given the depth of the problem, the city needs to take full advantage of the kaleidoscope of community-based organizations (CBOs) providing highly successful support for college access and success initiatives. Despite the success of many individual programs, CBOs remain disconnected from the work of DOE and CUNY and underutilized relative to the scope of the challenge. 

1. NYC Department of Education, “New York City Graduation Rates Class of 2016 (2012 Cohort). Data is based on August Graduation Rate—Traditional NYC Calculation.
2. CUNY Office of Institutional Research, “System Retention and Graduation Rates.” Accessed from http://cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/ira/ir/data-book/current/retention-graduation/system.html. This report cites the three-year graduation rate of full-time, first-time freshman students who entered CUNY associate’s degree programs in Fall 2013. The graduation rate in previous cohorts roughly doubles after six years. If this pattern holds true for the Fall 2013 cohort, the six-year graduation rate would be about 44 percent. Note that roughly one out of six students described as dropouts transfer out of the CUNY system to non-CUNY colleges. The outcomes of these transferring students are not known.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid. This report cites the six-year graduation rate of full-time, first-time freshman students who entered CUNY bachelor’s degree programs in Fall 2010 and graduated with a baccalaureate degree.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Center for an Urban Future (CUF) analysis of New York State Department of Labor Long-Term Occupational Employment Projections, 2014-2024.
8. Data from 2011–2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
9. Alan Berube, Brookings Institution, 2012. Summarized in http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/ 2012/05/31/us/education-in-metro-areas.html?mcubz=1
10. Data from 2011–2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
11. Ibid.
12. Jenny Nagaoka and Kaleen Healey, The Educational Attainment of Chicago Public Schools Students, 
University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, June 2016.
13. Kristin Black and Vanessa Coca, New York City 
Goes to College: New Findings and Framework for Examining College Access and Success, Research Alliance for New York City Schools, June 2017.
14. Analysis of internal data from the Research Alliance for New York City Schools.
15. Source data is a merged file of student unit record data from the New York City Department of Education and the City University of New York, supplemented by student unit record from the National Student Clearinghouse.
16. A family of three earning less than $37,060 in 2011 was considered to be low-income by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. See https://aspe.hhs.gov/2011-poverty-guidelines-federal-register-notice.
17. CUNY Office of Institutional Research, “Enrollment.” Accessed from http://cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/ira/ir/data-book/current/enrollment.html.
18. Raj Chetty et al, Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility, National Bureau for Economic Research, July 2017. Accessed from http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/papers/coll_mrc_paper.pdf.
19. CUNY Office of Institutional Research, “System Retention and Graduation Rates.” Accessed from http://cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/ira/ir/data-book/current/retention-graduation/system.html
20. CUNY Office of Institutional Research, Current Student Data Book.
21. Kristin Black and Vanessa Coca, New York City
Goes to College: New Findings and Framework for Examining College Access and Success, Research Alliance for New York City Schools, June 2017. Also see Phyllissa Cramer, “This new report underscores a big challenge facing New York City’s college graduation aspirations,” Chalkbeat, June 27, 2017.
22. According to IPEDS, the three-year graduation + transfer rate for all community colleges in New York City was 35.5 percent, compared to 30.9 percent in Los Angeles, 34.0 percent in Houston and 36.6 percent in Chicago. 
23. 2016 Student Experience Survey, CUNY. Accessed from http://www2.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/oira/institutional/surveys.
24. See http://www.cuny.edu/irdatabook/rpts2_AY_current/RTGS_0007_FT_FTFR_BACC_UNIV_TOT.rpt.pdf and http://www.cuny.edu/irdatabook/rpts2_AY_current/RTGS_0001_FT_FTFR_ASSOC_TOT_UNIV.rpt.pdf.
25. According to the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, in
the fall 2016, 103,179 CUNY students attended on a part-time basis, including 65,019 attending senior colleges and 38,160 attending community colleges.
26. See New York State Higher Education Services
Corporation, Schedules C and E. https://www.hesc.ny.gov/partner-access/financial-aid-professionals/programs-policies-and-procedures-guide-to-grantsand-scholarship-programs/appendix-a-tap-awardschedules-through-the-2014-15-academic-year.html
27. Data calculated from New York City Department of Education, School Quality Report 2015-16 database.
28. Ibid.
29. Clara Hemphill, Nicole Mader, and Bruce Cory, What’s Wrong with Math and Science in NYC High Schools (and What to Do about It), Center for New York City Affairs, July 2015.
30. Data submitted by NYC Department of Education to the NYC Council.
31. Some quantitative data is provided in a 2013 CUNY task force report on college advising, but this data is almost certainly too dated to represent current practice. See CUNY, Office of Academic Affairs, Report of the Study Group on Academic Advisement: Findings and Recommendations, May 2013, Appendix B.
32. CUNY 2016 Student Experience Survey.
33. See Davis Jenkins and Sung-Woo Cho, Get with the Program . . . and Finish It: Building Guided Pathways to Accelerate Student Completion, Community College Research Center, CCRC Working Paper No. 66, January 2014.
34. CUNY administrative data.
35. Jeffrey Valentine, Spyros Konstantopolous, and Sara Goldrick-Rab, “What Happens to Students Placed Into Developmental Education? A Meta-Analysis of Regression Discontinuity Studies,” Review of Educational Research, May 23, 2017. 

Photo Credit: Klaus Tan/Unsplash 

This research was made possible by The Clark Foundation.

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