Record Enrollment Brings Top-Notch Students -- And Great Challenges

Busy scene between classes at Baruch College

Enrollment at The City University of New York is at an all-time high, driven by students seeking value in a tough economy. The number of students enrolled in credit-bearing courses - 259,000 - jumped from 243,000 in 2008 and broke the 253,000 record set in 1974 when CUNY did not charge tuition. Overall, University data show an increase of 6 percent for the 2009-2010 academic year.

"The University's strong enrollment gains make a powerful statement," says Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. "Students and families connect with CUNY's consistent focus on academic quality, on providing value and on the changing needs of our students, present and future."

Not only are the numbers up, but the academic qualifications of the new students also are stronger, which underscores the University's growing reputation as a high quality option for families looking for an affordable education. Applications from students with averages greater than 85 percent increased by about 2,000 compared to last year.

"Preliminary indications are that at most of our senior colleges we will see significant increases in mean SAT scores and high school grades in comparison to the students who entered in the fall of 2008," says Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Alexandra W. Logue. "The data also indicate that students are taking more credits, which is an excellent predictor of increased student success."

The largest enrollment increase was at the community colleges. This year, applications were up 60 percent by those who picked a community college as their first-choice school.

But Goldstein warns that this pace can't be sustained.

"We need to be mindful that we have a moral dilemma," he says. "We have a very weakened economy where many people are coming to the University to shore up their skills, to present themselves into the marketplace as professionals who have acquired new talents and then find the kind of job that they want."

While it is important to provide this education, he says, "we cannot lose sight of the fact that there are limitations to what we can do in terms of full-time faculty, academic support services, class size and the physical constraints of having enough classrooms during the day and into the evening."

It is essential, he says, that the University finds the proper balance "between inviting students to study but not losing the kind of values we hold dear to provide the best kind of experience."