Brooklyn Boro

OPINION: Stop writing off CUNY as a ‘value college’

May 15, 2019 Jonathan Sperling
Brooklyn College is one of more than 20 schools in the CUNY system. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Earlier this month I was ecstatic to learn that I made the Forbes list.

Ok, so it was actually my school, CUNY-Baruch College, that made the Forbes list — but I’d like to think I played a part in Baruch and other CUNY colleges securing a spot in the top 10.

I was dismayed, however, to find out that the list was named “America’s Best Value Colleges,” and not something more prestigious (read: not patronizing).

Yes, if you’re in-state, Baruch — along with other CUNY senior colleges like Brooklyn and City Tech — is valuable in that tuition is relatively inexpensive (tuition was $3,365 per semester as of fall 2018). And yes, nearly 40 percent of my fellow students are the first in their families to attend college. And yes, CUNY colleges have consistently ranked high in social mobility. But these achievements show that the institution is of value — not a value school.

What is it about CUNY colleges that stops rankers from putting us up against the big kids? After all, 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,” according to data acquired by The New York Times. Baruch lists JP Morgan, Ernst & Young and Morgan Stanley among students’ top employers.

Maybe it’s the metrics. In Washington Monthly’s 2015 ranking of national universities, criteria included “Faculty receiving significant awards” and “Faculty in national academies,” among other impressive statistics. But on the magazine’s “Bang for the Buck Colleges” list, no such categories exist.

I’m proud of Baruch College for making the America’s Best Value Colleges list and others like it — but let’s stop referring to CUNY and other public university system schools as “Best Bang for the Buck,” “Best Colleges For Your Money,” and other similarly limiting superlatives.

In my four years as a CUNY student, I’ve been bombarded with rankings upon rankings that seemingly stress the university’s status as the bargain bin of higher education.

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From The Princeton Review to Forbes, the reminder that I attend a cheap-o school is incessant. All this, despite the fact that the City University of New York is a superb higher education system independent of its comparatively inexpensive tuition or its high number of students from families under the poverty line.

The CUNY system was my first choice for college — not because it is a “best value” college, but because it is a valuable college. So let’s stop writing it off as the former.

Jonathan Sperling is a graduating senior at CUNY-Baruch College and the digital editor of the Queens Daily Eagle.

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