Students Unprepared for College, Say CUNY Officials

April 26, 2012 Updated: April 26, 2012

NEW YORK—Students entering the City University of New York are not prepared enough—academically, emotionally, or financially.

Although three new programs have begun to help combat primary education deficiencies, almost 8 out of 10 students who enter one of CUNY’s six community colleges need help getting up to speed, said university officials on Thursday.

“The reality is that our students are not coming to college ready,” said Bronx Community College President Dr. Carole M. Berotte Joseph on Thursday at City Hall.

Both CUNY and the Department of Education are attempting to better prepare students for college, reaching past the senior year of high school.

For instance, one program, College Now, is a partnership between the two that helps almost 20,000 students in more than 350 schools get college credits and preparatory college courses while still in high school.

Still, only 27 percent of students in CUNY are graduating within six years. Many drop out in the first semester.

Yet, CUNY officials questioned by the Subcommittee of Higher Education pointed out that College Now and two other programs have been pushing college graduation rates up.

Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) helps push “motivated community college students” to get their degrees as soon as possible, according to CUNY’s website. The university has seen a 55 percent graduation rate after three years for those in the program.

Potentially impacting students are a wide range of factors, such as students beings parents, veterans, or just simply unprepared after earning a high school diploma in New York City. Thirty percent of students work 20 or more hours a week. Required courses are often fully enrolled.

“It’s a giant structural problem,” Kim Nauer said. “It’s not like one little thing would fix it. It’s something the very top levels of the Department of Education need to work on and the very top levels of CUNY need to work on, and they are. The people in both these institutions are really giving a lot of thought to this.”

Nauer is the education project director of the Center for New York City Affairs, a think tank based at New School.

Getting both parents and students thinking about college earlier is key to making sure things go smoothly once they enter higher education, agreed Nauer and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the chair of the Higher Education Committee.

“One of the challenges that we face, is that the information that the students get is basically in the senior year,” Rodriguez said. “Going to sixth and ninth grade, that’s where we’ll have an impact.”

Indeed, Richard Alverez, university director of CUNY, said that his office has already started talking to students and parents in fifth and sixth grades, “so they understand the importance of the coursework that their children take in middle school, because that has an impact on high school.”

One of the big questions, whether high-school standards are strong enough, is unclear. Nauer explained that standards have strengthened in the state and city, and a new curriculum will add to that strength in 2014. However, “the DOE has been criticized in the past for doing whatever it takes to make sure kids pass,” said Nauer, who has been working for a year on a report on college preparedness.

“Many kids get slammed by college, because in high school they weren’t prepared for how tough it was going to be,” she added. “This is not just New York City, this is a big national debate.”

Students’ Perspectives

Students at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, of the CUNY system, shared their perspectives with The Epoch Times on Thursday.

Mara, 18, feels pretty prepared for college. She partook in College Now and took a college prep course.

“My sister went to this school, so she helped me,” Mara added.

Omar Jackson, 21, said his teachers gave anecdotal advice about college. Although helpful, he said schools can do more to prepare students for college.

“I don’t know how, but they could do it. It would take time for it to happen. It wouldn’t happen overnight,” Jackson said.

Dongman Woo, 23, came to CUNY from South Korea. He said schoolwork here is quite easy. “In Korea, we study a lot, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. We used to go six days a week,” Woo said.


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