The City University of New York dates back to 1847 with the founding of the Free Academy by Townsend Harris. Its mission was to “educate the whole people” for the city’s new industries, offering public higher education based on academic worth, not ability to pay. The Academy became the City College of New York. The Female Normal and High School, opened in 1870 to educate women for teaching, became Hunter College.
The early 20 th-century immigration boom prompted CCNY and Hunter to open outer-borough branches that later became Brooklyn, Queens and Lehman colleges. The colleges opened night Schools of General Studies where tuition-paying students, starting in 1930, worked toward degrees or to raise their grades to attend the no-cost baccalaureate programs offered during the day. The postwar era led to another burst of enrollment, and by the mid-1950s, the first community college was organized. <read more>
In 1961, the state Legislature created The City University of New York, authorized it to offer doctoral programs, and provided the framework for the city’s then-seven municipal colleges to unite as an integrated system.
To this day, CUNY’s development reflects its early mission to provide educational opportunity for all. A greatly expanded University offers tuition-free education to nearly six in 10 full-time undergraduates thanks to federal, state and CUNY aid. Billions of dollars have been reinvested since 2000 into campus facilities. New colleges and graduate schools have been constituted. With record-breaking enrollments, more high-achieving students, and students of all backgrounds and abilities are choosing to study in vibrant New York City, at the City University of New York.
By the Numbers
- From 143 students in 1847 to 270,000 degree students in 2013.
- In 1870, Hunter College became the first school to offer free education to women.
- Since 2000, the University has raised more than $700 million for scholarships.
- The CUNY Graduate Center offers seven master’s degree programs and more than 30 doctoral programs.