Higher Ed

CUNY responds to Atlantic piece on demographic trends

UPDATE: CUNY has responded to Hancock and Kolodner’s article, requesting its withdrawal based on many significant factual errors. Here are my thoughts on that development.

My latest post addresses issues raised in an Atlantic article by LynNell Hancock and Meredith Kolodner that examines trends at CUNY’s senior colleges and, based on their analysis of those trends, questions CUNY’s commitment to serving the population of New York City.

CUNY has now issued a response to the Atlantic piece. In the response, Senior Vice Chancellor Jay Hershenson points out numerous factual errors and requests that the piece be withdrawn. One such error is in the enrollment trends themselves, which form the basis of Hancock and Kolodner’s argument. According to CUNY, minority enrollment is increasing in the senior colleges, not decreasing (as Hancock and Kolodner state):

The article paints an inaccurate picture of declining minority enrollments at CUNY highly selective colleges. The authors of the piece received enrollment data from CUNY in October, 2014 indicating that new Black student enrollment increased by 1 percent over the period from 2008-2009 to 2013-14. Hispanic new student enrollment increased by 5% over the same period.

In addition, since the fall of 2013, the upward trend has continued. The number of Black students admitted to CUNY’s highly selective senior colleges has increased by 15% and the number of Hispanic students has increased by 23%. The representation of both groups has also risen as a percentage of all new students.

CUNY’s response also notes that the main profile included in the Atlantic piece is similarly misleading. I can’t fathom how the authors came to misrepresent the story in such an egregious way. It is deeply unfortunate, because the inaccuracies undermine important underlying questions about higher education.

I stand by the questions I raise in my earlier post—about equity, labor conditions, and the mission of public education—but on their own terms, not on the basis of the Atlantic piece. I hope Hancock and Kolodner respond to shed some light on how they came to their conclusions.

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