2015-2016 Futures Initiative Research Projects Update

Diversity and equity in higher education are foundational pillars of the Futures Initiative’s mission. Last year, we carried out research projects that began to look at equity specifically in the case of the City University of New York with the CUNY Maps of New York, one of which looked at race and ethnicity of students enrolled at CUNY campuses and compared those with the race and ethnicity makeup of the neighborhoods closest to each of those campuses. This year, we have several research initiatives planned that will continue to explore questions of diversity and equity in both the CUNY system as well as in higher education more broadly. In this post, I outline three of the ongoing projects we have planned for this year. In the coming months, stay tuned for more updates as we continue our analysis of the available data.

Analyzing Student and Faculty Achievement at CUNY Longitudinally

CUNY has a long and diverse history of serving the public higher education needs of New York City. From the early days of separate institutions throughout the city coming together to form a system of junior and senior colleges, to policies of open admissions versus competitive admission, to low or no tuition policies versus tuition and extensive financial assistance through programs like Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and Pell Grants, CUNY has passed through financial crises and varying types of political climates and support for public higher education. How has student and faculty achievement mapped out over time to some of these major policy changes both within the CUNY system and to the broader political climate for public higher education?

This year, the Futures Initiative is undertaking an exploratory longitudinal data analysis of different indicators of CUNY’s student and faculty achievement in an effort to answer this question. Looking at indicators such as student enrollment, racial and ethnic diversity of the student body, gender makeup of the student body, graduation rates, financial support through programs like TAP and Pell grants, fellowships, and faculty diversity, we hope to discern how some of these indicators may correspond with a changing CUNY over time.

We have already completed some preliminary analysis on total enrollment numbers, freshmen admissions, race and ethnicity, number of degrees granted, gender, and financial assistance with data from the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. In the coming weeks, we will begin to publish some of these preliminary findings, which seem to map onto broader trends related to open enrollment policies in the late 1960s through the end of free tuition policies in 1976, financial crises in the 1970s and 1990s, and the end of open enrollment and restructuring in the early 2000s.

As a teaser for the results to come from this research endeavor in the coming weeks and months, total enrollment over time and total degrees granted overtime for the entire CUNY system are illustrated below for the years 1965-2014. Total enrollment across the whole CUNY system is now at its highest numbers ever (even exceeding the early 1970s when open enrollment and free tuition policies were in place). More people are finishing their educational programs and getting degrees from CUNY as well with the highest number of total degrees granted across the CUNY system occurring from the late 2000s onward. Broader trends over that time period also indicate a diversifying CUNY in terms of the race, ethnicity, and gender of the student body. These are just a few of the early patterns that we’ve seen in the available data, and graphic visualizations and more details on this project will follow soon!

Total CUNY Enrollment (1962-2014)


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*Note the data for the years 1987 through 1992 are missing.

Mapping CUNY’s Language Diversity

Closely related to the race and ethnicity diversity mapping project we created last year and in conjunction with the Global Perspectives on Language and Education course being taught this semester at the Graduate Center by Ofelia Garcia and Carmina Makar, the Futures Initiative will be partnering to complete a spatial analysis of languages spoken by students at CUNY and in the neighborhoods around individual campuses to compare how the diversity of the student body matches the neighborhoods around each school. In addition, the languages spoken by students and by neighboring communities will be compared with data on what language classes are offered at individual campuses throughout the CUNY system.

With this project, we will aim to answer the question of whether the languages taught at the individual campuses throughout the CUNY system have any connection to the languages spoken in the surrounding communities and the languages spoken by students at the individual campuses. To do this, we are using data on languages spoken by students at CUNY and offered by CUNY colleges provided by the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context at the Graduate Center as well as data on languages spoken at home from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2013 (5-year estimates). We plan to do a proximity buffer analysis using QGIS to look at languages spoken at home in the neighborhoods within 1-mile of each of CUNY’s campuses. We also later hope to explore the relationship between languages spoken in the neighboring communities and socioeconomics including race/ethnicity and income.

Faculty Labor Diversity and Contingency Project

An additional project that we plan to work on this year relates especially to the diversity and achievement project we are conducting CUNY-wide and aims to explore both the diversity of faculty at CUNY and at other higher education institutions both in New York City and more broadly. In addition, we hope to explore issues of contingent and adjunct labor in higher education over time. We will look at faculty labor data at CUNY longitudinally and compare that with labor data from other public and private urban higher education institutions as well as public and private higher education institutions more broadly. Using institutional data where publicly available, we also plan to utilize data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

This project will be a beginning exploratory look that will first assess what kind of data is available and why certain data may or may not be available and will then try to look at trends over time with the data that is available. Data on adjunct and part-time labor at any university is often times hard to come by, so this project will represent the beginning of an ongoing initiative to better understand and document trends in contingent and adjunct labor in higher education over time.

In addition to the University Worth Fighting For series the Futures Initiative is hosting both virtually and at the Graduate Center this year, these research initiatives aim to continue our commitment to supporting diversity, equity, and innovation in public higher education. The coming months will be exciting to see what kinds of patterns we observe in the data and how we can all work together to continue educating the public about the crucial need for continued public support of higher education now and for the future.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309