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City University Of New York

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The Economist (Jan 21st - 2th, 2006) had an article about the City University of New York (CUNY). It documents how -- without any great change in funding -- a change in philosophy has borne results. I had no idea that between 1933-54 CUNY produces 9 students who went on to be Nobel laureates. Here are some other graduates: Felix Frankfurter (SCOTUS), Jonas Salk (polio-vaccine), Irving Kristol (who was a anti-war liberal in his student days), Colin Powell, Robert Kahn (co-design TCP/IP).

According to the article, one reason for CUNY's success was in part because they admitted a larger percentage of Jews and other non-WASPs, because they use academic merit as the major selection criteria: it didn't matter if your father went there, or your brother went there; and, they had no sports teams.

Then, like most other colleges, they gave up their standards in the hope of admitting more blacks and Hispanics. Standards plummeted. Recently, a new head was put in place, a man who says: "Elitism is not a dirty word.", by which he seems to mean that it depends on the type of "elitism": whether it is based on family and race or whether it is based on merit. With great resistance from professors and others, he has moved the selection criteria back to merit.

He has started a new program for clever students: 1000 of the top students (of a 60,000) enrollment, will not pay any fees; rather the college will pay them $7,500 and give them a free laptop. These 1000 students are in the top 7-percentile in the country [i'm guessing the article is using SAT scores or something similar].

Further, the average student [the 60,000) were in the bottom third in 1997; now, with the new focus, they're already in the top third 9 years later.

The original article is only available to subscribers of The Economist, but they randomly offer a free "day-pass" to visitors to their site. So, here's a link.]

I don't know too much about college admissions, but I've been told that the better colleges use a lot of criteria other than merit. So, a story like this was refreshing. And, for any of you high-school folk -- life in NYC on a $7,500 stipend could be cool! and could be cheaper than paying your way elsewhere.

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