In a starting pronouncement, New York City Mayor
Rudolph W. Giuliani called on the city’s six community colleges late
last month to halt all remedial education.
Giuliani contends that under-prepared students do not belong in a
college setting and he threatened to yank all city funding if the
two-year institutions refuse to comply.
It was not immediately clear what impact such a move might have on
the six City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges, which
have a combined enrollment of nearly 70,000 students. But the mayor’s
office says putting a stop to remediation at the schools would reduce
the number of students in the system by at least 75 percent.
“There comes a point, after fifteen years of tragically plummeting
graduation rates and a total evisceration of standards, that somebody
has to say, “This isn’t working,'” Giuliani said.
The proposal piggy-backs remarks the Republican mayor made earlier
in the month in his “State of the City Address” in which he called for
an end to open enrollment at the six colleges.
Giuliani’s remarks trouble some educators, who fear that the final
outcome here in the nation’s largest city may become a bellwether for
what happens elsewhere across the country.
“We remain unalterably opposed to that type of restrictive policy,”
said Dr. David Pierce, president of the American Association of
Community Colleges in Washington, D.C. “In most states, policies have
been moving in the direction of having community colleges take over
more of the responsibility for remediation. This runs counter to that.”
CUNY system official have remained remarkably calm. Dr. Christoph
M. Kimmich, the interim chancellor, said that Giuliani to strengthen
the educational preparation of incoming freshmen before they are
admitted to CUNY community colleges.”
But some of the system’s staunchest defenders lashed out angrily at
the mayor, accusing him of manipulating statistics to tell a one-sided
story that distorts reality.
“The mayor’s bully,” said Dr. Joshua L. Smith, a higher education
professor at New York University and director of the school’s Urban
Community College Leadership Program. “His public utterances are more
appropriate for the traditional eighteen-year-old, well-prepared
student who is attending a liberal arts college right out of high
Indeed, Giuliani repeatedly has blasted the system’s community
colleges for what he says is a dismal graduation rate — about 1
percent after two years. But those numbers, the mayor’s critics say,
are little different and do not take into account the New York
college’s student base.
CUNY records show that 55 percent of all freshman entering the
community colleges are not recent high school graduates and more that
56 percent do not speak English as their first language.
“Community colleges are the ideal target for the mayor,” says Dr.
Roscoe C. Brown Jr., a former president of Bronx Community College.
“They serve the people who are left out, and the traditional standards
of success — like the graduation rate after two years — simply don’t
Giuliani wants students who are unable to pass entrance exams to be
forced to take remedial courses from private companies before they
would be allowed to enter the city’s colleges.
“I just think it would slow people down,” says Eddie Gregorio, a
twenty-four-year-old Borough of Manhattan Community College student who
took several remedial courses in math and reading. “If I had to go to
another school to take remedial courses, I wouldn’t have gone to
college. What the mayor wants to do will discourage too many people
from coming here.”
The mayor’s latest remarks also continue his campaign of verbally
flogging the colleges. Giuliani has appeared to delight in attacking
CUNY, the nation’s largest urban university.
The New York Times, noting the increasingly strained relations
between Giuliani and the system’s administrators, has reported that it
appears as if Giuliani was “declaring war” upon CUNY.
Dr. Antonio Perez, president of the 16,700-student Borough of
Manhattan Community College, where about half of all students need at
least one remedial course, said he thinks Giuliani is out of touch with
the realities of life on CUNY’s community college campuses.
“I believe that if the mayor had a better grasp of the student
population we serve and what their goals are, then I think he would be
more in concert with us,” Perez said.
Giuliani has no real authority to institute changes in the system,
which is controlled by the state. But he does have the power of the
purse strings. New York City provides 20 to 30 percent of the budget
for the six community college — which combined, total $332 million.
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© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com