A City Council-funded CUNY initiative aimed at re-enrolling students who dropped out or left college with credits, has brought back 14,000 students and roughly 21% of those students are from the Bronx.
The program, CUNY Reconnect, launched in the fall 2022 semester and received $4.4 million from the City Council. CUNY Reconnect surpassed its initial goal of re-enrolling 10,000 students who either earned some college credit but left before earning a degree or were unable to enroll in college due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CUNY’s program provides returnees with access to small scholarships and access to the university’s 17 childcare centers, and monthly meetings to discuss the barriers for students and their educational track.
The Bronx’s Hostos Community College enrolled the most in the borough with 675 returnees.
Nearly 1 in 5 Bronx residents have college credits but are without a degree — the highest rate in New York City — according to a 2021 report from Center for an Urban Future, a public policy think tank based in Manhattan. Without a degree, many New Yorkers in the city’s workforce find themselves underemployed or unable to earn sustainable wages to support their family.
Danys Valdez left Lehman College before the start of the 2021 semester, as she was dealing with raising a baby as a single mother and a loss of flexible income during the pandemic.
“I had my baby girl and didn’t know if I had missed that college window, missed my chance to chase my dreams,” said Valdez, 24, who wants to be an accountant. “When I heard about the program they told me about how they could help out with childcare and make things more manageable for me to finish and get my degree.”
Jordan Daniels, 22, who re-enrolled at Hostos for the current semester — which started on Jan. 25 — said his decision to drop out during his junior year was due to burnout from working two jobs. Daniels told the Bronx Times that he’s dedicating his pursuit of a criminal justice degree to his late mother, who always wanted him to graduate.
On an annual basis, bachelor’s degree holders earn about $32,000 more than those whose highest degree is a high school diploma, according to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The earnings gap between college graduates and those with even less education widens further.
A confluence of factors can lead to a student forgoing or delaying their educational track, but academic researcher University of the People reports that a student’s financial situation is the most common reason for dropping out of college.
Across ethnic lines, 34% of re-enrolled students identify as Hispanic, 32% Black, 17% white and 16% Asian or Pacific Islander.
“It is with great pride that we welcome the more than 14,000 students who have returned to CUNY or are first time students who paused their education after high school due to the pandemic. By furthering their education, they are preparing themselves to secure better-paying jobs and will lead the continued revitalization of our city,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “Through CUNY Reconnect, former students receive personalized support to connect them to the opportunities for socioeconomic mobility that the University continues to provide as part of its mission. We are grateful to Speaker (Adrienne) Adams and the City Council for supporting CUNY’s mission to uplift New Yorkers.”
Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.