New York Mayor Wants CUNY To Drop Remedial Courses

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Citing low graduation rates and poor scores on basic-skills tests, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has proposed that community colleges within the City University of New York system end open enrollment and eliminate remedial course offerings.

The mayor suggested that community college students unable to meet basic entrance requirements should be placed in remedial courses at private and public institutions outside the CUNY system.

"The community colleges in New York are the end result of a disaster that we weren't doing anything about," Mr. Giuliani said late last month. "There comes a point, after 15 years of tragically plummeting graduation rates and a total evisceration of standards, that somebody has to say, 'This isn't working.'"

Only 13 percent of CUNY community college students pass three basic-skills tests measuring 11th grade proficiency, and only 1 percent of the students graduate within two years, the mayor said.

The Republican mayor's proposals have been slammed by many Democrats in the New York state Assembly, the legislature's lower chamber. State lawmakers must ultimately sign off on the budget for the university system. Republicans control the Senate, while Democrats are dominant in the Assembly.

Students Are 'Heroes'

"The mayor's figures are wrong, and he's deliberately misleading people," charged Assemblyman Edward C. Sullivan, the chairman of the higher education committee. Low graduation rates are a trade-off for "casting a wide net" with open enrollment, he added.

"These young people who stick it out for four or five years to get their associate's degree, they are heroes," Mr. Sullivan said.

While acknowledging room for higher standards and improvement, CUNY interim Chancellor Christoph M. Kimmich said the mayor's proposals reflect "a basic misunderstanding about what constitutes the function of community colleges."

Most of the students requiring remedial help are adults coming back to school after many years without formal education, Mr. Kimmich said.

"We do have problems and we can raise standards," Mr. Kimmich said. "We're not perfect, but we're not as bad as we're being made out to be."

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