When noon comes, Baruch College becomes a battleground. Every Baruch student has once been part of the hellish mob that forms around the escalators as students slowly muddle out of class and trudge off to their next session consisting of an hour and 15 minutes. Students bump into each other in hallways when professors are late and everyone else is stuck outside. Then there are the packed classrooms of more than 40 students with less than 40 seats for them to duel over.
Obviously, Baruch is struggling with overcrowding, but it is not alone. This has become accepted as normal at every CUNY campus.
It is hard to imagine that it could possibly get even more crowded, yet that might be in the cards for the university system. In July, CUNY reported that freshmen applications for Fall 2017 went up by 9 percent, reaching a record high of 76,345. After growing disillusioned by the bureaucracy, current students might wonder what the fuss is about when it comes to applying to any of the 24 institutions that make up CUNY.
The first reason could definitely be Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initiative to waive CUNY application fees for low-income students could be another reason.
The New York Times is always quick to assert that CUNY traditionally serves “a predominantly poor and minority student body, more than half of whom report family incomes of less than $30,000.” The reasons stated above still hold to the traditional dogma of providing all New Yorkers with a college education, despite their financial or cultural background.
Journalist David Chen noted that CUNY is a “premier engine of upward mobility,” an apt description as the university gives those low-income students the skills and education to lift not just themselves, but also their families, up. Despite the often shoddy equipment, the volume of repairs that the campuses need and the rampant budget cuts, CUNY is still succeeding at serving the students that deserve it.
CUNY is giving elite colleges a run for their money. Columnist David Leonhardt reported that CUNY propels almost six times as many students from low-income backgrounds into the middle class, as do all Ivy League schools and several other elite universities combined. But with a higher application volume, CUNY should not grow elitist and selective.
CUNY has always prided itself on its inclusivity. Making it more difficult for those who have no other affordable educational opportunities to get their foot in the door does not fit the model on which CUNY was founded. CUNY can handle overcrowding. This has been a problem at CUNY since its inception and that problem can be fixed the way it always has: hiring more professors, scheduling more sections for popular courses and holding fundraisers for building repairs.
There is another source of income, one that takes a little more time to achieve, but is perhaps the most satisfying: money from students to whom CUNY opened its doors and helped reach the top echelons of society. This was done by providing an affordable education that rivals that of the highest-ranked U.S. colleges.