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BMCC is an “American Phenomenon”

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein
April 29, 2011

Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor of the The City University of New York (CUNY) visited BMCC on Thursday to discuss various topics, including the transfer of BMCC students to other colleges.

The speaking engagement was held in Richard Harris Terrace. BMCC staffers and faculty members were invited to attend, and encouraged to ask Chancellor Goldstein questions about ways to assist students through the college transfer process in lieu of budget cuts.

BMCC President Antonio Pérez introduced the Chancellor.

“He is dedicated to the university system and possess a keen interest in the future of our institution,” said Pérez. “He visited the campus right after 9/11 and is committed to rebuilding Fiterman Hall.”

Chancellor Goldstein called BMCC, “a gem within the CUNY system.”

“The academic pulse of the institution is always there. It’s the vitality of BMCC, with the remarkable faculty in particular,” he continued.

First, he explained that despite city budget cuts, the CUNY spirit remains strong.

“We’ve been under great stress for some time. However, we’ve maintained a sense of dignity by taking decisive actions early on,” he said, referring to the series of CUNY CEO meetings that have been taking place since 2008 and focus on “the future of public higher education.”

“In these meetings, we’ve started to take decisive actions without much fanfare. Our goal is to preserve what we have [at BMCC] and behave smartly in terms of business practices to really protect this institution.”

He added that he is “confident” BMCC and the other CUNY colleges will see the “financial clarity and sunshine we have not seen in three years.”

The important role of community colleges

According to Goldstein, public higher education is currently undergoing a metamorphosis.

“In ten years, we’re going to see public higher education moving in a way we don’t see today. Community colleges are going to play a very important role in education, and will continue to be an asset in the form of institutions we just don’t see in private community colleges.”

Further praising public community colleges, Goldstein called them an “American phenomenon” that took route after World War II, and will continue to be a “major player” in education, especially since they are heavily endorsed in Manhattan by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Community Colleges help students develop skills they need to exercise their minds and will continue to take on real leadership roles,” said Goldstein.

In regard to the transfer process, Goldstein said that most community college graduates matriculate into a 4-year college, however, the transition can be rocky if not all general education college credits are accepted elsewhere.

“General Education [required/core] courses need to be recognized by the institutions the students transfer into,” said Goldstein. “We are a community of equals and I am determined to get this done.”

Crashing through boundaries

"We’re going to have to crash through boundaries that prevent students from pursuing their dreams and get the degrees that will take them to the next step," continued Goldstein. 

He referred to himself as an example of a student with varied interests. The CUNY-City College graduate said, “I loved Math at CCNY, but also had wonderful experiences in music and literature—courses in which I had limited options to take.”

According to Goldstein, there are “so many” academic requirements that the students have to complete to graduate, which poses limitations when they wish to enroll in other courses, pertaining to their desired major, or even as an elective.

“I want students to be able to take that poetry course, for example, for a better understanding of the world,” he said. “They have to exercise their curiosity, but continue to stress the importance of an academic core. We need to put a cap on the number of general education courses as a way to say to students, ‘We believe in you as adults.’”

Goldstein believes at a college such as BMCC, the real work has to be done by the faculty, who “will help put together courses that help determine what the learning outcomes are. In doing so, at the end of the day, we’ll be a better institution.”

An exploratory journey

According to Goldstein, in the near future, a task force of predetermined faculty will determine what the learning outcomes are for students who wish to transfer into a 4-year school.

“BMCC is in a privileged position because the college has done so much work already, but you need to be better fed,” he said. “And I have to get you the resources. The goal is, every student who starts at BMCC will have a template of general education courses. It’s up to them if they want that license to continue on, academically.”

The goal of making it easier for public community college students to transfer into a 4-year college once they graduate is important—but won’t happen overnight.

“This would be a major change in the history of the university,” said Goldstein. “We want students to use a university experience as an exploratory journey. Education is critical but delusion is not an option.”

During the question and answer session, in which BMCC faculty members discussed ways to better prepare students for a 4-year school, Goldstein acknowledged that the desire to succeed varies from student to student.

“The students who want to succeed academically, have a fire in them, and those students succeed at the university level.”

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  • Acknowledges that sometimes there are academic “roadblocks” when students transfer from school to school
  • Looking to form committees to make the transfer process easier for students once they graduate from BMCC
  • Stresses the pivotal role community colleges play, in their communities and for students

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