By Andrew Johnson
York College Freshman Ambar Guerrero believes that the Queens-based college should add more majors to the existing curriculum, particularly in her field of interest.
“I just wanted the main communications major,” she said, when describing the inadequacies of the college’s existing communications technology major. “So, I’ll be going to a different school because of that.”
Guerrero said that her plan is to go to Brooklyn College so that she can study the field of Communications. She is one of the 22% of freshman students who plan to leave York College and transfer to another college at the conclusion of their first year at the college.
While freshman retention has increased from a low of 67% in 2005, it is still below the existing CUNY average of 83%.
While Brooklyn College’s freshman retention rate may be a percentage point lower than the CUNY average, it is four percentage points higher than that of York. Nearby Queens College, a sister school of York, has a freshman retention rate of 87%.
In order to fix the ongoing problem of retention at York College, the college is handing out a 116 question survey to students.
Photo of survey by Andrew Johnson.
The survey, created by the Noel-Levitz Organization, is designed to find out student opinion on topics ranging from the amount of activities, the quality of academic advisement, library resources, and campus maintenance.
This information is handled by the researchers at the school’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. Craigon Campbell, a data analyst from that office, put great emphasis on the serious nature of the information that his office deals with.
“We are the only ones that are sworn to the highest level of secrecy there is in the college,” Campbell said. “The data we touch has to do with everybody.”
The office collects the information and then sends it the City University of New York which then organizes the information and places it into book form, and is subsequently returned to the college.
“We get that book with all this data in it, and we analyze it, interpret the data, and present the interpretation of the data to the president,” Campbell said. “…and from there, we recommend changes. So a lot of stuff you see happen in the college are recommendations that come from our office.”
Tansina Afroz, a computer science major and freshman at the college who expressed words of praise for the college’s teachers and faculty, believes that there should be an expansion of the facilities.
“When someone wants to study, they don’t have a place to study,” she said, when discussing the lack of quiet places to study. Afroz also believes the school should have expanded computer facilities. “The lab is always crowded, and the library is always crowded,” she said.
Another complaint about life at the college surrounds the issue of student advisement. Jonathan Quash, a York College graduate and the director of the college’s Men Center believes that the process of student counseling and academic advisement should be streamlined.
“It’s very complicated, in terms of the path to success,” he said of the current advisement and counseling process.” I think that if it were slim-lined or such, there would be some of a one stop shop where students can get all of the services they need.”
The resolution of the college’s various issues is the goal of York College Administrators, particular college provost Ivelaw Griffith. Griffith, in an office interview, addressed the concerns surrounding the student advisement and counseling system and said that the college was in the process of revamping the system.
“The idea is to streamline advising and streamline it in a way which students get to be advised in the department earlier,” he said.
It is one of the many changes York administrators hope will contribute to an enhancement in retention. One plan that has already played a role in York’s retention enhancement goals is the school’s annual Research Day.
The event, which will be held for a fourth year this spring, was implement to give the student something that will keep them focused on their studies at the school. “If you excite students about research, you create opportunities for them to want to stay and accomplish that research,” Griffith said. “The evidence from national studies is that undergraduate research is a retention tool.”
York administrators also believe that retention can be enhanced through the streamlining of the general education requirements. This is the goal of the CUNY Pathways system, a proposal which seeks to standardize the CUNY curriculum in an effort to make it compatible with all CUNY colleges.
York administrators hope that the plan will enhance retention and help expand and improve the quality of majors and minors.
“Pathways will not only strengthen students coming in, but it will create less of a hassle for students here,” Griffith said. “It gives an opportunity for departments and majors to reorganize minors, to reorganize their majors and make it a little more attractive.”
However, the plan has faced opposition from CUNY faculty, who feel the plan will bastardize the value of a CUNY education and hurt the competitiveness of students trying to find a spot in graduate school. Griffith dismissed the charges against the proposal.
“I say those complaints are either malicious or they are not fully aware of what Pathways is all about,” he said, when discussing the criticism of the program and the program’s plan to accept credits for similar courses taken at other colleges. “We are not telling the professors how to teach. We are asking the faculty what are some common learning objectives.”
One final goal in the college’s plan to enhance retention is the proposed Academic Village and Conference Center. The project, when completed will offer students brand new state of the art facilities, including an observatory to look at space.
Planned Academic Village structure, photo from Ennead Architechs LLP
“It’s not only a new location, it is a new location that creates excitement about York, Griffith said.”
However, York College freshman Salman Ahmed, a person interested in studying the medical field, believes that no changes should be made to the college.
“To be honest, there should be no changes, its perfect out here,” he said. “Professors, Instructors, everybody’s nice. If somebody got problems, it’s just the students. There is nothing wrong with the college.”