LaGuardia Community College unveils new effort to re-engage former college students

In an effort to boost sagging enrollment, LaGuardia Community College has launched an innovative initiative to re-engage former college students to return to campus. (QNS/File)

While every CUNY campus has seen a sharp decline in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LaGuardia Community College launched its Credits for Success Initiative to encourage working-age New Yorkers with some college experience, but no degree, to resume their education.

Through the innovative initiative, former college students enrolling at LaGuardia will be able to earn degree credits for knowledge and skills acquired outside the classroom. Former CUNY students also may be eligible to have outstanding tuition and fee balances forgiven.

Nearly 700,000 working-age New Yorkers, most of them Hispanic and Black, started college and earned some credits, but did not complete the course requirements for a degree. The Credits for Success Initiative will recognize knowledge they gained from workplace experience such as military service, which earns students an industry credential. It will also recognize certain scores on standardized exams through degree credit, among other avenues for earning credit.

Supported by a $1 million grant from Robin Hood, the initiative will be led by the newly created Office of Credit for Prior Learning. Funding for student debt relief will be provided by the LaGuardia Community College Foundation.

“With the job market continuing to trend toward a higher-skilled workforce, a college degree is more central to success in the workplace than ever before,” LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams said. “For an equitable economic recovery from the pandemic that genuinely lifts all of our communities, it is imperative that we re-engage former students and get them on the path to college completion and career success.”

The Center for an Urban Future analyzed Census data and found that 14.3% of all New Yorkers between 25 and 64 have some college, but no degree, including roughly 220,000 Hispanic New Yorkers, 210,000 Black residents, 170,000 white residents and 61,000 Asian residents.

“A college degree is a proven pathway to career growth and economic mobility, yet New Yorkers from underserved communities face persistent barriers to degree attainment,” Robin Hood CEO Richard Buery said. “Robin Hood is proud to support this landmark effort from CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College to remove common barriers that prevent so many from realizing their dreams of completing college.”

In awarding degree credits, the newly created Office of Credit for Prior Learning will apply academically rigorous assessment methods to these four areas of experience: military training, standardized exams, industry credentials and portfolio assessment.

“This initiative will enable us to reach out to student populations who heretofore may not have considered coming to LaGuardia or back to college at all,” LaGuardia Community College Provost Pail Arcario said.

Developed by LaGuardia’s Vice President for Adult and Continuing Education Sunl Gupta, in collaboration with Academic Affairs leadership and faculty member Dr. Janice Karlen-Pollack, the Credits for Success Initiative will focus on developing partnerships with community-based organizations to create awareness of the initiative and establish a referral pipeline.

“This formalized collaborative relationship with CBO partners will enable their constituents to connect to a valuable resource, assessment for college credit, which can potentially accelerate a student’s trajectory towards a critical metric of time to college completion or transfer,” Gupta said. “We will proactively be reaching out to community-based organizations to take an inventory of their workplace training programs in order to codify where degree credit can be awarded.”

More from Around New York