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City University of New York

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university, serving 540,000 students—more than 269,000 degree-credit students and 247,000 in adult, continuing, and professional education—at 24 institutions in New York City. The University includes 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and the CUNY School of Public Health. It is governed by a Board of Trustees, composed of 15 appointed members, plus the chairs of the University Faculty Senate, who serve ex officio. Five members are appointed by the mayor of New York City and ten by the governor of New York State. The governor also appoints the chair and vice-chair.

The Chancellor is the University’s chief academic and administrative officer and is responsible for executing board policies. The Chancellor is assisted by a Central Office staff and advised by the CUNY Council of Presidents, a University Faculty Senate elected by faculty members from each campus, and a University Student Senate of student representatives designated by the student governments of each college.


City University of New York traces its beginnings to 1847 and a municipal public referendum authorized by the State Legislature to determine if the people of New York City were willing to underwrite the cost of a tuition-free institution of higher education for their children. The Free Academy, created as a consequence of that overwhelmingly affirmative vote, later became City College of New York. In 1870 Hunter College was founded to educate women and became the first free normal school in the country. The State Legislature established a municipal college system in 1926 with the creation of a 21-member New York City Board of Higher Education.

As the demand for higher education grew, other colleges were established within the city’s system: Brooklyn College in 1930, Queens College in 1937, New York Community College in 1947, Staten Island Community College in 1955, Bronx Community College in 1957, and Queensborough Community College in 1958. In 1961 the Legislature designated the municipal system as the City University of New York. Rapid expansion and restructuring followed. The Graduate School was organized in 1961 to provide a vehicle for graduate programs that could draw on the faculties of all CUNY colleges. Other colleges were chartered during the next decade: Borough of Manhattan Community College (1963), Kingsborough Community College (1963), John Jay College of Criminal Justice (1964), Richmond College (1965), York College (1966), Medgar Evers College (1968), Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College (1968), and Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community College (1968). Bernard M. Baruch College, which had been the School of Business and Public Administration within City College, became a separate senior college in 1968. Lehman College, which had been a branch of Hunter College in the Bronx, became an autonomous senior college the same year.

Richmond College and Staten Island Community College were joined together as a federated institution named the College of Staten Island in 1976. In 1994 Medgar Evers College was designated a senior college in the CUNY system.

The City University of New York School of Law, which is dedicated to training lawyers to practice “Law in the Service of Human Needs,” opened in 1983. It received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in 1992.