Southeast Queens lawmakers joined City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez, and York College President Berenecea Johnson Eanes on Monday, Dec. 5, to break ground on York College’s new Student Welcome Center, a dedicated facility where former students will meet with counselors about re-enrolling in school and getting the services and support they need to complete a degree or credential.
The new center is part of CUNY Reconnect, a $4.4 million program advanced by Adams in this year’s city budget to engage and re-enroll thousands of working-age New Yorkers who have earned credits but left college before they graduated. Black and Latina women disproportionately comprise the population of students with college credits but no degree.
The program was envisioned by the Center for an Urban Future’s research and first proposed by Adams at the Association for a Better New York’s Power Breakfast and in her State of the City address.
CUNY Reconnect navigators, which were hired when the program launched this fall, have already reached out to more than 50,000 people who were once enrolled at CUNY and did not finish a degree. They have engaged with over 17,000 of those students and re-enrolled 3,000 of them. Helping these former students resume their pursuit of degrees or other credentials will enable them to advance their careers, improving their economic mobility and the city’s post-pandemic economy.
“Helping working New Yorkers complete their college degrees will expand opportunities for economic mobility that advance our communities and local economy,” Adams said. “CUNY Reconnect has already supported thousands of students re-enrolling at CUNY and will reach even more people with the services and guidance they need. The addition of a new Welcome Center at York College will further advance these efforts, and I am excited by the impact it will have for students at my alma mater.”
The York College Student Welcome Center will have extended evening and weekend hours, where student success coordinators will be available in person, by phone and through video conferences to help former students apply to the college, complete a financial aid application (FAFSA) and provide academic advisement and information about credit for prior learning.
Eanes said she is excited to welcome former students back and new students to York’s Center.
“As in most families, people often make transitions due to a range of circumstances, but they are always welcomed back home,” Eanes said. “As part of the York family, we will provide dedicated support to new and former students so that they can pursue their dream of earning a college degree or certificate. As their partners in change, we are committed to their success and appreciate Speaker Adams and Chancellor Matos Rodríguez’s vision to ensure that education access is available to all New Yorkers.”
Eanes added that she is confident that through Reconnect, York will help each returning student find their academic path — whether it is enrolling in the college’s widely recognized nursing or aviation management program, or exploring its rigorous liberal arts major.
“We are committed to helping make their dreams come true for themselves, their families and their communities,” Eanes said.
By enabling thousands more New Yorkers to complete a college degree or credential, CUNY Reconnect will help to ensure the equity of the city’s post-pandemic economic growth, Rodriguez said.
“We know the complicated web of factors that can discourage or prevent a person from returning to college. Working to help each individual successfully navigate this transition presents a game-changing proposition for York College and CUNY to promote access and opportunity across New York City,” Rodriguez said.
CUNY estimates that there are approximately 700,000 working-age New Yorkers, who have earned credits and could return to finish their degrees or earn certificates that would help them enhance their careers.
This includes students who left college during the pandemic, as well as those who withdrew years or even decades ago. The initiative will also conduct outreach to students who graduated from high school during the pandemic and were unable to attend college because of personal circumstances.
Southeast Queens lawmakers such as City Council Members Nantasha Williams and Selvena Brooks-Powers applauded Adams, Rodriguez and Eanes for their efforts to welcome students back to York College.
“It’s exciting to have a program like CUNY Reconnect in southeast Queens. Having a college degree has provided millions of New Yorkers the opportunity to navigate different sectors and launch careers,” Williams said. “This program will allow thousands of working age adults to complete their degrees and re-enroll in a manner that is best suited for their needs.”
According to Brooks-Powers, every New Yorker should have the chance to obtain a college degree, including those who left college before graduating.
“Students are often forced to withdraw from school due to circumstances beyond their control. As a result, they are denied the learning and career advancement opportunities that come with a college degree,” Brooks-Powers said. “Hundreds of thousands of former students would benefit from a chance to re-enroll, and I applaud Speaker Adams, Chancellor Rodríguez, and President Johnson Eanes for their efforts to welcome these students back to York College.”
On Thursday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m., York will host an in-person Adult Learner Information Session to provide information on academic programs and student support services as well as immediate admissions decisions. Enrollment specialists will also be able to explain the transfer credit evaluation process and provide access to academic advisement. For more information and to register for the event, visit here.