CUNY celebrates 175 years of education



Hande Erkan

CUNY, the largest US urban higher education system, celebrates its 175th anniversary on May 7.

“True to our original mission 175 years ago, CUNY represents opportunity for all New Yorkers, providing affordable access to a high-quality education that changes the lives of our students and shapes the future of the City we serve,” CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez said.

Founded as The Free Academy in 1847, CUNY is now one of the most successful modern university systems in the United States, comprising 25 institutions. It was also the first  university to offer free higher education to women. Each year, the university enrolls 260,000 students from more than 200 countries.

“The story of The City University of New York is an epic tale – a sweeping story of New York and New Yorkers, and of America, that spans 175 impactful years,” the commemorative website said.

The site also mentioned the university’s motto, “the education of free people is the hope of humanity,” and highlighted the accessibility of a CUNY education.

“CUNY propels almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford, and Chicago, combined,” The New York Times stated in a 2017 article.

Over the past 175 years, CUNY has launched a total of 25 educational facilities, including senior and community colleges.

CUNY has a history of pushing the limits of innovation and substantially influencing the community. There have been 13 Nobel Laureates, 26 MacArthur Winners and 151 Fulbright Scholarsamong the university’s graduates.

In 1946, the university contributed to the postwar economy by opening the New York State Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences. It was created mainly to train technicians to work under postwar legislation. It was later renamed New York City Community College, becoming the city’s first community college.

In 1951, CUNY started to offer co-education: women were admitted to the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In 1964, the primarily all-female academy, Hunter College, openedto men.

CUNY continues to recognize and honor student achievements in academic, social and sports fields in the new century, according to the site. Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, launched in 2007, enables community college students to acquire their degrees in three years.

Five years later, the CUNY Service Corps launched to mobilize students to work on projects that improve civic, economic and environmental sustainability. In 2017, the Service Corps initiated action to help Puerto Rico recover from the hurricane.

In the following year, CUNY launched a new Advanced Science Research Center. It specializes in neuroscience, structural biology and other major science fields. It continues to invest in scientific innovations.