Op-Ed | Big Year Ahead for CUNY

CHANCELLOR COLUMN – 1chancellor-1920x1005_S 8-25-26-2022

Classes have now resumed on most CUNY campuses as we kick off the Fall 2022 semester and continue our celebration of the university’s 175th anniversary. Days before the opening of the semester, I helped students move into the dorms in the College of Staten Island and on the first day of classes, I was thrilled to welcome students, faculty and staff at York College and Brooklyn College.

I look forward to meeting more members of our vibrant university community across CUNY’s 25 schools in the weeks and months ahead. For many reasons, this academic year promises to be the biggest one yet for the City University of New York.

Historic Support

We come into the 2022-23 school year with a historic level of support from our state and city leaders, and the impacts are already being felt. As part of the state’s increased investment in public higher education, New York’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) is for the first time available to part-time students, tearing down a barrier that has long blocked thousands of students who have other obligations from much-needed financial aid.

“I couldn’t be a full-time student, so I couldn’t access the financial aid that I really needed, but that dream was always inside of me,” said Amy Santana, a student parent who spoke last week when Governor Kathy Hochul visited Borough of Manhattan Community College to announce the expansion of TAP. “This fall, I will finally get the financial aid I need to get the degree I need, on a timeline that works for me without having to quit my job.”

We’re also welcoming 250 new faculty lecturers this fall, the first of more than 500 full-time faculty the university is hiring thanks to an additional $53 million in state financial support. These new positions represent an investment I have long advocated for and mean more CUNY students will have future mentors and advisers at the front of the classroom, and the university will be better equipped to ensure our students stay enrolled and succeed. I am equally pleased that members of our adjunct faculty are now receiving the full cumulative effect of the substantive salary increases negotiated in the last contract with the faculty union.

With an unprecedented $965.8 million increase from the state for our capital projects, we can move ahead with expansions, needed improvements and critical maintenance of facilities at our campuses, representing an important commitment to our mission of serving all New Yorkers.

And when I say all New Yorkers, I know there are many more people we can reach. Beginning this fall, we are going to make that push. Thanks to a $4.4 million commitment from Council Speaker Adrienne Adams we are launching the CUNY Reconnect initiative which plans to enroll 10,000 adult learners who earned some college credits but left school before completing a degree.

And thanks to Mayor Eric Adams, we are starting the year with greater collaboration between CUNY and the City’s public schools through programs that help students identify and pursue career aspirations. Also with the city’s support, our campuses are building partnerships with industry that will ensure strong pipelines to high-potential careers for thousands of CUNY students. The Mayor this month visited Bronx Community College to announce an effort that will engage students from four CUNY schools to prepare New Yorkers for jobs in the construction and industrial sectors, part of an $18.6 million federal grant.

New Leaders, New Visions

Three CUNY schools are opening the year with dynamic new deans who bring great passion, vision and experience. Sudha Setty, who has been a trailblazing educator and legal scholar, and a committed advocate for social justice, joins the university as dean of the CUNY School of Law. We have also elevated two of our own, with Graciela Mochkofsky heading our Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and Dr. Dara N. Byrne taking the reins as dean of the Macaulay Honors College.

We are also fortunate to start the year with our new chief academic officer, Wendy Hensel, the new university provost and executive vice chancellor, who comes to us from Georgia State University. We are excited about her track-record of innovation in Georgia and how it can help us improve outcomes for all CUNY students.

These are only a few of the reasons I am so excited to begin this highly promising new academic year. It remains my greatest privilege to lead CUNY, an institution that will always have New York’s back.

Félix V. Matos Rodríguez is the chancellor of The City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban public university system in the United States.