Innovative Model Community College Is Now on the Midtown Launchpad

Planning for the University's new community college, opening in 2012, has kicked into high gear with the hiring of a founding president, six core faculty members and a registrar, the leasing of classroom space near Manhattan's Bryant Park and the appointment of a vice chancellor charged with enhancing associate-degree education across the city.

Work on the University's seventh community college began in fall 2007, when Chancellor Matthew Goldstein envisaged a differently structured school that would significantly increase graduation rates. The evolving plan captured the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Josiah Macy Jr., Foundation and the Carnegie Corp., as well as Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose Gateway to the Middle Class plan specifically endorsed the University's new model for community college education.

The University's drive takes place against a national backdrop where community colleges are both overwhelmed by demand for training and retraining and by lagging graduation rates that fail to prepare enough students with associate degrees to meet the country's needs. President Obama has set major goals for increasing community college capacity and graduation rates.

"The new community college employs an innovative model for improving student performance and graduation rates," Chancellor Goldstein said. "Over the next year, the new college's team will flesh out the concept developed during more than two years of intensive work by faculty and staff from 15 of CUNY's undergraduate and graduate institutions and the central administration. Excitement is building."

The appointment of Queensborough Community College president Eduardo Marti as the first vice chancellor for community colleges will further "invigorate community-college education, the fastest-growing segment of higher education," the chancellor said.

The new college will be headed by Founding President Scott E. Evenbeck, a psychology professor and founding dean of University College at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Since 1997, University College has served all beginning students in 18 undergraduate schools in that urban public university system, from orientation through entry into a degree program. Evenbeck, who was chosen in a national search, officially takes office in January. CUNY leased the former Katharine Gibbs School at 50 W. 40th St. for the new community college. Already built for classroom use, it needs little renovation. The 10-year lease gives the University time to build a permanent home for the new college that will replace an old building at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and 59th Street.

The new college will start with 500 students from the general entering student population; reflecting its experimental role, it will grow to only 3,000 students.

Since many community college students need remedial help, the new college builds in developmental coursework for those who need it while immediately starting academic work. The program features full-time enrollment for at least the first year; a common first-year curriculum that provides twice the normal time for math; a professional studies component with worksite experience; and just 10 to 12 new ccmajors in fields with available jobs and pathways toward bachelor's degrees. The signature City Seminar will plumb "the complex physical, social, environmental and political realities of New York," said John Mogulescu, senior University dean for academic affairs and dean of the School of Professional Studies who, along with Tracy Meade, director of the New Community College Initiative, led the two-year planning effort to create the school.

The new college arose when Mogulescu suggested piloting a differently structured community college. "Before I could even begin describing ... [it] in any detail, the chancellor interrupted and said he was not really interested in a pilot program, but was interested in creating a new community college," Mogulescu said. And whether a new model, like nothing presently at CUNY, would deliver better results."

Part of the model is requiring full-time study during the first year. That appears to pay off in higher graduation rates -- and proof is as close as the University's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative. Some 1,000 students at CUNY's six community colleges now enroll in ASAP, which was created for students who do not need significant remedial work. (Many students entering the new community college are likely to need remedial help, some of which will be offered in the summer before enrollment.)

When ASAP started in 2007, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Goldstein set the ambitious goal of graduating at least half the students within three years -- more than three times the national average for urban community colleges. By last June, 53 percent had earned an associate degree and, by September, the rate was expected to rise to 56 percent. Also as of June, 64 percent of ASAP graduates had transferred into CUNY four-year colleges.