The Most Effective Anti-Poverty Program: The New York City (CUNY) and State University (SUNY) Systems (Especially CCNY)

Research shows us that student’s prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century; instead of increasing numbers moving up the economic ladder from generation to the next the opposite is occurring.

Anti-poverty programs are maintenance programs, relatively few move up the ladder. The feds maintain a Mobility Index, percentage of kids who move from the bottom 40% by income to the top 40%.

There is one shining light.

The public colleges have been extraordinarily successful in moving graduates up the economic ladder as measured by the Mobility Index

Raj Chetty and others at Stanford, using “big data” techniques scanned extremely large numbers of students over more than a decade and found,

To take just one encouraging statistic: At City College, in Manhattan, 76 percent of students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution. These students entered college poor. They left on their way to the middle class and often the upper middle class.

Of over five hundred colleges involved in the study, my alma mater, CCNY, finished second on the list!!! Five of the top ten schools are in New York City. (Maybe our high schools are doing a lot better than the frequent critics claim)

Colleges with the highest mobility rate, from the bottom 40 percent to the top 40 percent

1. Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology 66.0 66.4 43.9
2. City College of New York 60.5 62.9 38.1
3. Texas A&M International University 60.7 62.4 37.9
4. Lehman College 64.6 57.0 36.8
5. Bernard M. Baruch College 52.3 69.2 36.2
6. California State University, Los Angeles 59.6 60.0 35.7
7. Crimson Technical College 55.4 64.1 35.5
8. University of Texas-Pan American 64.0 53.5 34.2
9. New York City College of Technology 66.2 50.9 33.7
10. John Jay College of Criminal Justice 54.4 61.1 33.2


The stunning success has been in spite of a continuing lack of financial support from the Cuomo administration. Since the 2008 Great Recession the CUNY schools have lost 4.000 staff members, and,enrollment and tuition has been steadily increasing.

In his January State of the State address the governor announced his Excelsior Plan, free tuition for CUNY and SUNY schools – well – sort of free tuition. Students do receive Tuition Assistance Grants (Dreamers are not eligible) and federal Pell Grants; however, to be eligible students for the Excelsior dollars students must be full time students – must take fifteen credits each semester.and family income cannot exceed $125,000.

The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) helps eligible New York residents pay tuition at approved schools in New York State. Depending on the academic year in which you begin study, an annual TAP award can be up to $5,165. Because TAP is a grant, it does not have to be paid back.

Amounts can change yearly. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $5,815 for the 2016–17 award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017). For the 2017–18 award year (July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018), the maximum award will be $5,920. The amount you get, though, will depend on

  • your financial need,
  • your cost of attendance,
  • your status as a full-time or part-time student, and
  • your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

Between TAP and Pell many students have their tuition covered in the  CUNY and SUNY systems; however the funds cannot be used for books, travel, rent or food. CUNY students commonly hold jobs to pay for other than tuition as well as support families.

The Assembly Democrats, the Senate Republicans, and the IDC all offer alternatives to the Governor’s Excelsior Plan, i. e., increasing TAP, lowering the required credits per term, etc.

A New School conference last week was devoted to the idea of free tuition and the Governor’s Plan. Would the plan contain flexibility in the number of required credits per term? Would TAP be increased and could it be used foe metro cards, SNAP and other family supports? Should the privates share in the final plan? Would the governor increase support for colleges? The governor’s plan did not include the privates.

Watch the conference here.

There was general agreement that some sort of  “free tuition” plan would come out of the budget negotiations. The panelists agreed:  a potential 2020 presidential candidate needed “free tuition” on his resume.

With all the school and teacher-bashing the Chetty Study on Mobility reminds us of the time when City College was referred to as Harvard on the Hudson. City College and other CUNY and SUNY schools are the engine that will drive kids from poverty to the middle class, or higher.

Be proud!!

2 responses to “The Most Effective Anti-Poverty Program: The New York City (CUNY) and State University (SUNY) Systems (Especially CCNY)

  1. You can’t have it both ways..Not every occupation can be funded by a socialist bent Gov’t philosophy. This nonsense about Big Business being The People’s enemy, is contrry to the notion of quality employment in the US. We are a capitalist country that should be driven by capitalist policies. If that is the norm, then there will be much more op in the business world for ALL of our college graduates, with a balanced available work froce for The Teaching Industry. Civil service is a wonderful career, but so is a career in the private sector.


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