COVID-19 Impacts CUNY Enrollment and Students

Student retention rates were 28% lower for students attending online classes than students attending in-person classes since the pandemic began, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. The retention rate at Hunter College decreased from 85.3% to 81.2% from 2017 to 2018, according to City University of New York data.

Since the beginning of 2020, colleges in New York have shifted from in-person classes to online learning. CUNY made the change in March 2020.

Hunter College admissions also “suspended the use of SAT/ACT usage for admissions due to the pandemic,” said admissions counselor Jarvis Dieujuste.

Dieujuste said Hunter admissions now offered “one-on-one admission appointments via Zoom, virtual tours, virtual meetings, and more dynamic communications to keep students engaged.”

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

Overall the CUNY system has seen a decrease in enrollment during the pandemic. Fazila Naeemi, a senior at Hunter, said that the past year was difficult to manage.

“In between classes I take my mother to her doctor’s appointments and I work full time,” she said. “I think many people believe that because I no longer commute into Manhattan for classes I must be doing better in my classes, but I did struggle to maintain good grades.”

Naeemi said she faced several issues, including a lack of communication from Hunter and professors during this time. She considered taking a semester off but decided against it because she was almost done with her undergraduate degree.

CUNY also raised tuition by $320 for the Fall 2020 semester, including a $120 fee for health and wellness services. This increase in tuition was during the beginning of the pandemic, a time where the unemployment rate hit 14.4%, according to the Pew Research Center.

Juvanie Piquant, chairperson of the CUNY University Student Senate, said in a virtual public hearing that many students are unemployed and need mental health resources, despite CUNY’s $120 “health and wellness fee.”

This fee “can be another reason why [students] say, ‘Well I cannot continue my degree at CUNY because we have another added fee, just because I need some more help,’” Piquant said at the hearing.