Students say CUNY system a mixed bag

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Baruch College had an 89% retention rate in 2018. Baruch’s retention rate is 8% higher than that of Hunter College, according to data from the CUNY Office of Institutional Research. These statistics are often used as indicators of a school’s quality.

Enrollment at Hunter rose from 23,193 in 2019 to 24,052 in 2020, according to a financial report from the University Budget Office.

Two students who considered Hunter College for the 2020 school year said they were concerned about the effect it would have on their social, academic and professional lives. 

“It is much easier to propose a new class and teach it at Hunter, than it is at Baruch,” said an instructor who teaches at both schools. “There are a set number of courses that have been offered for decades [at Baruch], with, as far as I can tell, no new offerings that relate to the unique skills/interests of specific faculty members.”

The instructor, who asked not to be named because they feared repercussions at work, said students can pursue more unique courses outside of Baruch.

“At Hunter, however, even graduate teaching fellows are able to design their own courses and get departmental approval to teach them quite easily,” they said.

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Thien An Phan, a former student at Hunter, said she did not find the school a good fit for her.

“It didn’t have a major I actually cared about,” she said. “At CUNY Schools, coming from a NYC public high school, it felt very much like I was going into a bigger NYC public high school.”

Phan felt being in New York City would give her more opportunities. “I thought it would be more fun than going to Albany, but cost was the biggest part of [my decision].”

 Having attended New York City public schools with many classmates who chose to attend CUNY schools Phan said, “People go to Baruch or other CUNY schools over private or more prestigious schools to save money.”

A prospective psychology student who recently relocated to New York City said they had just begun their search for which school would be the best fit for them. 

“I have no idea how I would rank the top three schools, because I simply don’t know enough about them,” the student said.

Phan said she did not think one CUNY campus offered anything more than the other. “At all CUNY campuses, I do think you get a similar experience.”

She transferred to State University of New York – Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), roughly 30 blocks south of Hunter in Manhattan and she said she has no regrets. 

“[FIT] definitely felt like it was more creative, more of a community and you have more interaction with your professors,” Phan said. “It felt like more of a college experience.”

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Angela Vasovic, a student at City College, said she looked into SUNY Campuses but didn’t want to leave New York City. 

“I came into college knowing what I wanted to major in,” she said. “I got into all the CUNYs I applied to.” She now attends City College for The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.

“I definitely do think that every school has their strength,” Vasovic said “For Baruch, it’s business… Hunter specializes more in sciences.”

Vasovic attended campus tours of several CUNY senior colleges during her last year of high school, but said the tours did not leave favorable impressions.

“I visited Hunter and Baruch and City College before I made my decision,” she said. “[Hunter] reminded me of my high school…. [Baruch’s] student body seemed a little more type A.”

She ultimately chose City College. In addition to having an academic program she’s interested in, she said she favors City College’s more traditional college campus.

“I’m pleasantly surprised by my experience at City College.” Vasovic said she would have considered other options had she been able to afford it. “The fact that it was a cheaper option for me really did play a very big role.”