CUNY Introduces New Assessment To Reduce Obstacles for Students

Graduates celebrating at the CUNY New York City College of Technology Commencement Ceremony earlier this year on June 3. Photo credit: The official City Tech website


CUNY is partnering with a national institute to diagnose the challenges students face in an effort to increase graduation rates. The results from the assessment will help the university devise customized recommendations for keeping students enrolled and better assisting them in completing their degrees.

“As part of our commitment to ‘CUNY Lifting New York,’ we’re building on a new phase of student success innovation at CUNY and developing the next generation of programs that reduce obstacles to graduation for many more students across our diverse system,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, per the official CUNY website.

The effort to increase graduation rates is a leg of the “CUNY Lifting New York” program, which was first launched in the summer of 2021 with the goal of revamping CUNY and prepping it to become America’s leading student-centered urban university by 2030. This program came after the COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic disrupted the lives of many and caused enrollment to drop drastically. Working with the National Institute for Student Success and conducting a diagnostic assessment is a step CUNY is taking to fulfill the program’s objective.

Rami Mansi, a freshman at Brooklyn College, believes an assessment like this would be a way for students to express their needs more clearly to the university. “What CUNY is lacking is student input in their decision-making and budget cuts and direction. If CUNY can genuinely listen to what students from various schools and boroughs both need and want, perhaps those needs and wants could be met,” he said. Mansi is an education major who has often found that classes he needs to graduate aren’t offered in every semester.

By examining how students are or are not supported throughout their years at the institution, CUNY hopes to gain a better understanding of the challenges students may face. Among these obstacles are issues with the college application process, paying for tuition, enrolling in classes, and eventually deciding on a major.

Although many are hopeful that the new assessment will help CUNY programs run more efficiently, others are skeptical about the university’s agenda. “If they’re using this tool to explore the reality of CUNY students in order to reassess their goals of pushing you or open themselves to make it long term, that’s fine. But my fear is that they’re just trying to find more ways to rush students into finishing in four years, which isn’t very practical for most students, especially since CUNY isn’t free like it was in the past,” said Irene Sosa, a professor at Brooklyn College who teaches in the Television, Radio and Emerging Media Department.

Based at Georgia State University, NISS partners with several higher education institutions, including the University of Missouri and North Carolina Central University, to help identify any issues students are facing and to work towards creating an environment where more students feel supported and encouraged to complete their degrees. From its collaboration with NISS, CUNY will consider what other institutions across the nation have done in order to learn from their methods and help more of their students make it to graduation.

“As part of the four-month assessment process, NISS conducts a diagnostic analysis of student and institutional data to evaluate the effectiveness of a college’s student success apparatus,” as stated on CUNY’s website. “Faculty and staff are also surveyed and participate in focus groups as part of a qualitative assessment.”

The assessment results could lead to the implementation of new student success programs that could help remove obstacles that come between students and their ability to complete their degrees, which is similar to current programs such as CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs and the Accelerate, Complete, and Engage program.

ASAP and ACE University Executive Director Christine Brongniart recognizes the need for a new method of utilizing technology in the system to scan the success of students and better assist programs at CUNY. “We as a program have invested, you know, infrastructure, staffing. And the practice itself is grounded in student success and the ways in which we use data is a centerpiece of our work,” Brongniart said in an interview. “I think there’s a lot of room for improvement with regard to the maximal use of the technology and tools that are available.”

According to the September 2023 Mayor’s Management Report, a total of 20,309 students were served in CUNY ASAP this fiscal year compared to 25,507 students in fiscal year 2019, the year before the pandemic began.

In order to get back to where CUNY and its programs were before the pandemic, Brongniart believes there is a need “to have a structured process to really ground ourselves in like a landscape scan of the current state of all the student support programs, use of analytical tools and available technologies, looking at the data and seeing how programs are performing.”

The university-wide plan is getting its initial footing at five CUNY colleges: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, York College, Lehman College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and LaGuardia Community College. However, CUNY hopes to eventually have the assessment implemented at every one of its 25 campuses.