CUNY Snapshot: Race/Ethnicity by College Reveals Startling Trends

This year, CUNY’s City College was ranked by Best College Reviews as the 5th most ethnically diverse college in the country. In fact, City College is so diverse that Michelle Obama recently chose to deliver her last commencement address as first lady there. However, a look into racial and ethnic diversity across the entire CUNY system paints a slightly different portrait. The chart below offers enrollment information from fall 2015 for CUNY’s senior colleges. Taking a closer look at the percentages of certain racial and ethnic groups in various CUNY colleges shows that CUNY has a lot of representation from various groups, but some colleges have disproportionately high or low representations of certain racial and ethnic groups.

When it comes to American Indians and Alaska Natives, most of CUNY’s senior colleges had low representation across the board – on average, only .3 percent of enrolled students fell under that category. York College stands out in this regard, with 1 percent of its enrolled students being American Indians or Alaska Natives.

In regard to Asian and Pacific Islander students, Baruch College stood out. Baruch’s Asian and Pacific Island population in fall 2015 was 40 percent – nearly 20 percent higher than CUNY’s average. Medgar Evers and Journalism School also stood out in this category, with only 3 percent representation of this ethnic group.


Medgar Evers (Wikimedia Commons)

The racial category with the most drastic disparity was Black students enrolled in CUNY campuses. In fall 2015, Medgar Evers’ Black population comprised 86.3 percent of total students enrolled. On the other end of the spectrum, only 9 percent of students enrolled were Black at the Graduate School.

Lehman College and John Jay had the highest percentages of Hispanic students enrolled, 48.8 percent and 40.6 percent, respectively.

And, lastly, Graduate school, Journalism School, Law School and Staten Island had the largest percentages of White students enrolled, with the Graduate School having the largest White percentage at 67.7 percent. Medgar Evers and York College had the lowest percentages of White students, with Medgar Evers only having 2.1 percent White representation.


CUNY Graduate Center (Wikimedia Commons/David Shankbone)

While many of these numbers seem extreme, CUNY still is a diverse institution. I think that most of these numbers can be explained by geographic disparities. For example, Medgar Evers is located in Crown Heights, which is known to be a heavily Black and Jewish neighborhood.

But, I think that lack of diversity in certain schools, like Graduate School, Law School and Journalism School, speak to social trends in our society that need to be addressed. The professional world as a whole needs more diverse representation, and one of the only ways of achieving that goal is to get a more diverse group of students into these types of schools.


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