Former college dropouts log on to CUNY in the thousands – New York Daily News

Thousands of college students who have dropped out or put their education on hold because of the pandemic are returning to the City University of New York for the first day of school on Wednesday.

After a slow start, more than 14,400 former students re-enrolled before this semester via the “CUNY Reconnect” initiative launched in the fall. The program encourages New Yorkers with college credits to pursue their degrees. By the end of the last semester, 3,000 students had made use of it.

Over the winter break, a team of 50 outreach workers called “Navigators” have doubled down to contact alumni who have earned some college credits but don’t have a degree to show for them.

That group included Yoslin Reyes, 21, who told the Daily News that in 2019 she gradually stopped attending classes while pregnant with money problems until she lost financial support at Queensborough Community College.

Queensborough Community College

“Now I’m in a pretty good place in my life and I wanted to go back to school,” said Reyes, who gave birth in May at the height of the pandemic. “Mostly for my daughter.”

The Navigators, who collectively speak six languages, helped connect students with scholarships and access to childcare to keep them from dropping out.

Reyes said she worked with staff to resubmit an application for financial assistance at no cost to her. She also switched her major from criminal justice to health sciences to become a dental hygienist.

“I have to be able to take care of something [my daughter] financially. When she sees I’m in school, I’m not saying she needs to go to college…but I really hope she thinks about it,” Reyes said.

The $4.4 million pilot program in this year’s city budget, championed by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens), is serving 4,000 more students than originally anticipated.

CUNY Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.

“I am delighted that this groundbreaking initiative has exceeded its original goal of helping New Yorkers advance in their education and careers,” Adams said in a statement.

Most program participants are Black or Hispanic and live in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Many of the re-enrolled students enrolled in courses at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Queensborough Community College, and Queens College.

The idea for the program came from a paper by the Center for an Urban Future, which estimates that nearly 700,000 New Yorkers between the ages of 25 and 64 took some college courses but didn’t make it to graduation.

Black and Hispanic women make up 35% of that population, though collectively they make up just 26% of New York’s working-age population, researchers found.

According to the study, many dropped out of college just a few credits short of graduating — and as a result, they took on much of the financial burden of higher education without the benefits and income that come with a college degree.

Last month, CUNY and Adams announced plans to build a welcome center at York College in Jamaica, Queens, where alumni can meet with counselors to discuss re-enrollment and related services and supports.

“It is with great pride that we welcome the more than 14,000 students who have returned to CUNY or are freshmen who have interrupted their post-high school education due to the pandemic,” CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez said in a statement.

“Through further education, they prepare themselves for better-paying jobs and will drive the further revitalization of our city.”