Over 600 Students Return to Lehman Thanks to CUNY Reconnect Program
The City University of New York announced this week that 14,433 students have signed up for classes at the University this 2022-23 academic year through CUNY Reconnect, surpassing the initiative’s goal of enrolling 10,000 returning students. With this milestone, CUNY welcomed back students who earned some college credit but left before earning a degree along with many students who graduated high school but were unable to enroll in college due to personal circumstances stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
CUNY Reconnect, launched at the start of the Fall 2022 semester, was proposed by New York City Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams and funded, following the Council’s advocacy, with a budget allocation of $4.4 million.
“Our vision for CUNY Reconnect was to help working-age New Yorkers re-enroll in college to attain degrees that enhance their economic opportunities,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “I’m elated that this groundbreaking initiative has surpassed its initial goal to help New Yorkers advance their education and careers.”
Lehman College welcomed 638 CUNY Reconnect students to campus through its signature Adult Degree Program and other initiatives geared toward attracting and retaining promising students who have faced significant obstacles in their pursuit of a college degree.
“Our success in bringing over 600 students back to Lehman to continue their studies speaks volumes, to not only the dedication of these students, but to the college’s commitment to social mobility in the region,” said Richard Finger, Interim Vice President for Enrollment Management at Lehman.
CUNY’s spring semester began January 25 at most of its colleges but Reconnect outreach workers have been busy connecting with former students over the winter break. The biggest gains were in Queens, where 29% of the new enrollees live, followed by 26% in Brooklyn, 21% in the Bronx, 10% in Manhattan and 5% in Staten Island. An additional 8% reside outside of the city. By ethnicity, 34% of re-enrolled students identify as Hispanic, 32% Black, 17% white and 16% Asian or Pacific Islander. The Borough of Manhattan Community College signed up the most students through the program, followed by Queensborough Community College and Queens College.
CUNY Reconnect hired a team of navigators to work with prospective students and provide personalized support for their re-enrollment. These navigators, who speak six languages, guide prospective students through program selection and help them locate student support services and understand their financial aid options. Resources include access to small scholarships and streamlined access to the University’s 17 childcare centers. Navigators meet monthly to discuss the barriers they are encountering in their outreach, so that strategies can be adjusted.
Danys Valdez, one of Lehman's CUNY Reconnect success stories, was featured in a Jan. 26 Bronx Times piece on the initiative. In Fall 2021, the responsibilities of caring for a new baby as a single mother, coupled with the pandemic's economic fallout, prompted Valdez to leave Lehman, she said. A year later, the aspiring accountant was back on track, thanks to CUNY Reconnect.
"I had my baby girl and didn’t know if I had missed that college window, missed my chance to chase my dreams," she told the Bronx Times. "When I heard about the program they told me about how they could help out with childcare and make things more manageable for me to finish and get my degree."
Lehman's initial success with CUNY Reconnect bodes well for future efforts at the College to encourage re-enrollment and attract new students who delayed their educational plans.
“Lehman’s goal is to invite students who paused their educational career to come back to the college," said Lehman's president, Fernando Delgado. "Lehman not only offers a vibrant and supportive learning community, it also has a demonstrated history of making a deep and profound impact on social mobility. We hope students take up the invitation and see that their futures can be even brighter with a Lehman College degree.”
Former students who are interested in re-enrolling at Lehman college can learn more through CUNY Reconnect here.