“Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC’s Precarious New Generation of College Students”

Comprehensive Four-Year Study in 14 NYC Schools Calls for Improvements in Academics, College Prep, Financial Education and more


NEW YORK (September 26, 2013) - A new report from the Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) at The New School for Public Engagement offers a rare, front-line look at what is required of urban schools to better prepare students for college.

The report, entitled Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC’s Precarious New Generation of College Students reveals why only 29 percent of New York City public school graduates earned test scores high enough to avoid remedial courses at the City University of New York (CUNY). Those who make it to college struggle to finish: Only half of CUNY freshmen entering in 2006 earned a four-year bachelor’s degree in six years, and only 16 percent of students entering CUNY’s community colleges in 2009 earned a two-year associate's degree in three years. Click here to view the full report.

“A large majority of students at every income level say they want to go to college—and more and more of them are going to college. But the number of students actually completing a college degree remains stubbornly low,” said Kim Nauer, Education Project Director at CNYCA, who led research on the report. “As New York prepares for its first new mayor in more than a decade, this report lays out the key challenges new civic leadership will face in bringing effective college accesses and readiness measures to the nation’s largest school district.”

CNYCA researchers tracked the work of students, educators and nonprofit staff in 14 low-income city schools for four years as they worked to improve their college numbers. The report details how and why some students finish high school, go to college and succeed—and so many others fail. The report highlights the areas of:

  • Academics: A majority of students in New York City high school struggle with poor reading skills, preventing them from using textbooks and doing longer research papers. Only 25 percent of eighth graders met state standards for reading in 2013.
  • Preparation: Many high schools struggle to provide the essentials of a college preparatory curriculum.
  • Rigor: In surveys, both students and teachers expressed frustration with the singular focus on preparing all students for the state Regent’s exams.
  • Culture: A majority of students surveyed were unaware that colleges look at their freshman and sophomore transcripts. College-focused guidance often begins too late for many students.
  • Finances: Low-income students rely on a patchwork of grants and loans; applying for this money is complicated and often overwhelming for families and school staff.
  • Community: Nonprofits and neighborhood organizations have been a crucial factor in supporting thousands of aspiring college students—but connecting them to the schools requires hard work and more resources.

This study is the result of four years of site observations, surveys and focus groups conducted for the evaluation of “College Ready Communities,” a foundation-funded college readiness initiative that partnered public schools with community development corporations and advocacy organizations. Center researchers also interviewed hundreds of educators, guidance counselors, college experts, policymakers, students, parents and nonprofit leaders. The report offers policy recommendations to the mayor and the city and state Education Departments.

The Center for New York City Affairs is a leading applied policy research institute within the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School for Public Engagement. CNYCA's projects include the Schools Watch Initiative, Child Welfare Watch, Feet in Two Worlds, College Ready Communities, Public Policy Forums, Politics & Advocacy Training, and the respected indepdent public school-review site

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Media Contacts:

Sam Biederman, Associate Director of University Communications
212.229.5667 x3094

Kim Nauer, Center for New York City Affairs

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