Avoiding a Tragedy of the Commons
Chapter 5: The City University of New York (CUNY), 1980–1998: A Case Study in the Tyranny of Small Decisions
INTRODUCTION Let us put a face on the problems our universities and colleges confront when they must deal with budget cuts without benchmarks of the effects on student learning outcomes. Here is a case study of the third largest system of post-secondary education in the United States. In 1997–1998 I led a group of researchers augmented by a small staff hired through the Mayor’s office to undertake research aimed at providing assistance to the Mayor’s Task Force on CUNY, chaired by Dr Benno Schmidt. My colleague, Mary Kim, produced the CUNY Statistical Profile, 1980–1998 (1999), a comprehensive data-based picture of CUNY over an 18-year period. Thus, for the first time, CUNY administrators and policy analysts could examine trends over time in a variety of indicators. For our purposes, the information provides the basis for an analysis that tracks the decline in budgets devoted to undergraduate education. It brings to life the effect of negative changes in the list of indicators on p.18. The City University of New York (CUNY) was created by the New York State Legislature in 1961 from the pre-existing municipal college system. CUNY is now the largest public urban university in the United States with over 250,000 students in 2010. It is the nation’s third largest university system. CUNY currently consists of 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, a Graduate School and University Center (GSUC), a law school and a biomedical school. Eight of the 11 senior colleges offer Masters degrees, four offer Associates...
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