Blog Post

CUNY Correction of Fact Errors in Atlantic Monthly Essay #FuturesEd

Dear Editor in Chief Bennet:

This is a request for the withdrawal and review for corrections of “When High Achievers Have No Place to Go”, which was published today on The Atlantic website, replete with major factual errors and mischaracterizations.

First and foremost, the headline and secondary headline are untrue. The CUNY system guarantees admission to all high school graduates in one of 20 undergraduate colleges. None of the students profiled in the piece were “locked out of the City University of New York.” All four were admitted to a CUNY college. Two of the four were admitted to multiple four year colleges. So both the headline and the secondary headline are factually wrong.

Particularly inaccurate is the fact that the piece leads with the story of an individual, Mr. Kenneth Rosario, with two photographs of him, and with ten lead paragraphs in a row describing in great detail his alleged plight, with quotes like,”I killed myself, for what? If I couldn’t even get into the top CUNY schools, what was it for?”

This is inaccurate for the following reasons: Mr. Rosario was admitted to his first choice CUNY College, The City College of New York, to the prestigious Andrew Grove School of Engineering at City College. CUNY records indicate that his acceptance email was viewed. He declined the offer. He was also admitted to his second choice, the New York City College of Technology, and to his third choice, Brooklyn College, and to his fourth choice, Lehman College. He declined those offers as well.

He was not accepted, as the piece indicates by his fifth choice, Hunter College, and Baruch College, his last choice. However, the article never mentions that Hunter and Baruch were his two last choices and instead pretends that “he was locked out of The City University of New York”. In addition, within the ten paragraphs, Mr. Rosario’s interest in electrical engineering is referenced. Neither Hunter nor Baruch offer engineering programs; City College does and that four year college was his first choice—never mentioned in the article.

Mr. Bennet, permit me to suggest that when the first ten paragraphs of an article in a respected publication like The Atlantic are in error, that alone should serve as sufficient grounds for the withdrawal and correction of the piece.

Nevertheless, please read on.

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:

The article states that “overcrowded two-year community colleges have filled up with more black and Latino students”. Over the last decade the percentage of Black students at the CUNY community colleges has decreased by 4 percentage points while Asian students has increased by 2 percentage points. In fact, there are no references in the article to Asian students existing at CUNY community colleges, even though during the last decade, Asian freshman enrollments increased there by 69%.

The article gives the false impression that the highly selective colleges of CUNY rely solely on the SAT for admission decisions. In fact, the admission process takes into account multiple factors, including the amount of college preparatory coursework a student has completed; the student grades in those courses, and the student’s scores on the New York State Regents exams, if available. There are other facts that would have provided a more complete picture, but the errors cited above stand out for their gravity.

CUNY is a unified and integrated system of senior and community colleges and graduate and professional schools. It is a travesty to falsely describe the system as locking out immigrant and minority students when CUNY is experiencing record student enrollments: 274,000 degree credit students now attend CUNY, hailing from over 200 countries. And CUNY serves another 240,000 adult and continuing education students annually. There is no system in the country more diverse and more accessible.

In the interests of fairness, please consider our request.

Jay Hershenson
Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
The City University of New York

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