Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Rethinking Community College: A Look at New Community College in New York City

April 23, 2013

In August 2012 The New Community College at CUNY opened with 300 students and a mission to rethink community college education. We and our students are now midway through NCC’s first year, and I’m delighted that the fall-to-spring persistence rate of this first cohort is 92 percent. This is not only beyond our initial expectations, but is also 20 percentage points ahead of most community colleges. While “92” is our new favorite number, we will continue to strive for “100” as our retention goal.

Our college’s story began back in 2007. Long before we heard the term “completion agenda,” City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein turned his attention to enhancing the academic success, persistence, and graduation of the diverse, low-income, first-generation students attracted to our open access community colleges. He launched the Accelerated Studies in Associate Programs which have helped thousands of students earn the degrees needed to improve their lives.

Dr. Goldstein, though, wanted more. He teamed a national panel of researchers and practitioners with colleagues across the university and charged them with identifying the policies and practices that made student success possible. This important work, backed by support from foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, laid the groundwork for what was to become the successful opening of NCC last summer.

So what’s “new” about The New Community College?  All our students begin in the Summer Bridge Program as a transition from high school or GED to college. They engage full-time in a city-centered first-year experience before starting their major coursework in one of six degree programs. The NCC connects field experiences with classroom learning in a structured and supportive environment. Instructional teams of faculty members, student success advocates, graduate coordinators, and library staff create a rich classroom environment. A peer mentor program is at the core of our model, which provides academic and social supports for every student and provides clear pathways to graduation, to work or additional study. 

As the founding president of The New Community College, I am proud that the college is becoming the student-centered institution to which we aspired.  Students have made the campus their own and have created a supportive culture that celebrates individual achievement. At a recent college retreat, faculty and staff celebrated how we uniquely support student achievement and success. 

Additionally, NCC stresses the importance of assessment and evaluation with our ambitious research agenda.  Faculty and staff look carefully at their work and its impact on students and have already used those observations to improve our efforts. It is exciting to be part of a dynamic environment, centered on improvement.

We hold high expectations for our students and high aspirations for the College.  It’s our responsibility to provide the conditions for our students to thrive and succeed.  We are doing things differently and believe what we are doing will be of interest to all those in higher education who believe that postsecondary degrees matter.  

 
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