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Open Forum on Cuts to 2021-22 Admissions: A Summary

On February 4, the Graduate Center Chapter of the PSC hosted an open forum on planned reductions in 2021-22 graduate admissions. The forum – for which 110 people registered – was designed to bring staff, students, and faculty together to take stock of what we know and plan a collective response. 

The first part of the forum involved Interim Provost Julia Wrigley outlining the Graduate Center’s plans and fielding questions from participants. The key takeaways from this exchange were:

  • Academic departments must reduce Graduate Center Fellow (GCF) admissions by 50% in 2021-22; Tuition Fellow (TF) admissions will be suspended, though with exceptions still to be worked out such as cases where TF’s may work full time or have other funding. 
  • The Graduate Center has received “written assurances” from CUNY Central that GCF admissions will be restored in 2022-23. This measure is strictly temporary. According to the Interim Provost, this is the safest approach, ensuring GCFs are not slowly clawed back from the Graduate Center over several years.
  • The future of TF admissions beyond 2021-22 is less clear. Interim Provost Wrigley stated that the Graduate Center is concerned with the inequities of tuition-only admissions, who receive no funding beyond tuition and no guaranteed health insurance. Wrigley stated that they are following up to distinguish between tuition fellows who prefer not to have the GCF (e.g. working professionals) and those who desperately want and need a GCF but have to scramble around for funding and health insurance year-to-year. The goal is to reduce the Graduate Center’s reliance on the latter. 
  • Money that would have gone toward a full 2021-22 cohort will be invested primarily in Graduate Assistant D appointments for soon-to-be 6th Year Graduate Center students workers in light of the impact of the pandemic on their research.

Attendees then posed a variety of questions, including:

  • How much flexibility – if any – will program Executive Officers have in 2021-22 admissions? Here, in response to questions for Executive Officers facing particularly steep reductions in admissions, the Interim Provost suggested that some degree of flexibility will be permitted. Some programs, for instance, should be able to admit a small number of TFs. 
  • How will students who are not entering their sixth-year be supported? The Interim Provost confirmed that the current plan is to provide support only for students entering their sixth year in 2021-22, but there is no specific plan (yet) to support students in years 1 through 4 – other than through their existing funding. Nor is there a specific plan for students already beyond their fifth year.
  • How will the impact on classes be lessened? The Interim Provost indicated that enrollment thresholds may be lowered for first year-focused classes. 
  • How will the admissions reductions affect diversity and inclusion at the Graduate Center? Several attendees at the open forum expressed concerns about this issue. The Interim Provost emphasized the Graduate Center’s continuing commitment to Provost Enhancement Fellowships (PEFs) for underrepresented groups. This would mean that, even as the Graduate Center reduces admissions across the board, the proportion of underrepresented groups would actually increase. Program representatives present countered that the large number of cuts to fellowships available would still result in losing students from underrepresented backgrounds. 
  • How do the calculations add up? The Interim Provost could not give a clear answer on how much money is being saved by cutting 2021-22 GCFs. This leaves open the question of whether there is only enough money for 6th year Grad Ds in 2021-22. If a GCF is a five-year package, why would the elimination of a GCF not free up five years of funding?  Additionally, what are the savings accrued from fewer tuition waivers (and presumably also dissertation fellowships) for that group in years 6-7? What are the financial details of revenue saved from admissions cuts and how that revenue will be spent?
  • How is the Graduate Center attempting to expand public funding sources? Interim Provost Wrigley suggested that the Graduate Center is working hard to increase its access to donor funds and contributions from alumni, while expanding certificate programs It is unclear how the Graduate Center is working to increase access to public funds. 
  • How will federal stimulus funds be used to support students? Currently, the Interim Provost stated that these funds have been provided to individual students on the basis of need.

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