Memo for Friends of CUNY Executive Committee:

Impact of 1999 Resolution on Remediation and Admissions

 David Lavin

April 25, 2000 


There has been a great deal of confusion about the impact of the CUNY admissions resolution.  One estimate (Lavin and Weininger  1998) stated that among 1997 first time freshmen, over 60 percent would have been turned away from baccalaureate programs if the new policy had been implemented.  This translated into many thousands prevented from entering these programs.  On the other hand, documents prepared by the CUNY central office for the Regents project that only a couple of hundred students will be affected after the policy is phased in.     

The original description of results in the Lavin and Weininger study was not a prediction but simply an  estimate, based on an assumption that the Board of Trustees actions should be taken at face value.  At the time, issues such as special program or ESL exemptions were not taken into account or provided for by the Trustees.  As more exemptions are put in place, the drastic effects would be somewhat mitigated.   

The Lavin and Weininger study assumed that neither the news of the impending policy change nor its actual implementation would change the behavior of applicants for subsequent classes.  However, as a recent examination of the effects of affirmative action rollbacks makes clear (Orfield and Miller 1998),  policy change or even the prospect of change can modify the behavior of potential applicants or even of admittees.

In writing about the influence of affirmative action at Berkeley, Karabel (1998) has noted that "…the new policy is likely to change not only who is admitted, but perhaps also who applies and who chooses to attend.  The effect…may thus be cumulative , with the new policy having the potential to reduce both the number of minority applicants and the 'yield rate' …in addition to the admission rate (p. 35). 

In light of the evidence from other university systems about the effects of policy change on applications, admissions, and show rates, it is a highly speculative exercise to project the effects of CUNY policy change on educational access, as the central office has done.  CUNY policy will begin its phase-in this year and CUNY projections cannot be taken seriously until reality sets in. 

To monitor the effects of the policy on access, it is of high importance that the University community and the Regents have information on rates of application to the university, since this may aid in the understanding of how policy may encourage or discourage efforts to enter the university.  Such information can only be collected from data files on high school graduating classes.  Needless to say, such data must be analyzed using ethnicity as one important vantage point. 

In assessing access, it is also important to monitor whether the flow of applications  to bachelors and associate degree programs is changing.  Changes in the flow of applications--away from the former and toward the latter--may signify a policy effect on applicants' perceptions of their educational opportunities.  Again, such analyses should include a context of ethnicity. 

Another monitoring function is that of calculating rates of acceptance at the respective levels of the City University.  This will allow an assessment of the distribution of different groups across CUNY's two main tiers. 

It is possible, even likely, that CUNY policy will discourage some from applying at all to the university.  Since there are a large number of colleges in the New York metropolitan area and since most of them offer remedial opportunities, many potential CUNY applicants may choose to go elsewhere.  Still others may be discouraged from any college attendance.  This is to say that the issue of opportunity for college, and especially among minority applicants, cannot be definitively answered by who does or does not apply to- or attend CUNY. 

For this reason it is extremely important to initiate a study of college-going in New York City.  This could be done by conducting a systematic survey of a representative sample of potential college applicants.  In 1970 when open admissions began, exactly such a study was done (Birnbaum and Goldman, 1970). 

Taken as a whole, the above would represent an unusually ambitious undertaking.  It is undoubtedly beyond the resources available to The Friends of CUNY.  It may be that the Friends should attempt to influence research that is done or requested by the State Education  Department and the Board of Regents.




















Birnbaum, Robert, and Joseph Goldman, 1971.  The Graduates: A Follow-up Study of

New York City High School Graduates of 1970.  New York: Center for Social

Research, City University of New York. 


Lavin, David E. and Elliot Weininger.  1998.  Proposed New Admissions Criteria at

            The City University of New York:  Ethnic and Enrollment Consequences.

            Testimony presented to the New York City Council Committee on Higher



Karabel, Jerome.  1998.  No Alternative: The Effects of Color-Blind Admissions

in California; in Orfield and Miller, pp. 33-50.


Orfield, Gary and Edward Miller (editors). 1998.  Chilling Admissions:  The Affirmative

Action            Crisis and the Search for Alternatives.  Cambridge, MA:  The Harvard

Education Publishing Group.