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Home » Clarion » 2012 » August 2012 » CUNY: "We Have Tiered the System"

CUNY: "We Have Tiered the System"


One part of the revised Executive Compensation Plan (ECP) approved by CUNY’s trustees on June 25, 2012 drew some surprised attention from faculty and staff: the blunt division of CUNY colleges into five distinct “tiers,” with different pay scales for the top executives of each ( But while this detailed and official statement of CUNY’s hierarchy was startling to many, it is not at all new.

The ECP hierarchy classifies CUNY colleges as “Research Institutions” (Baruch, Brooklyn, CCNY, Hunter and Queens, plus the Graduate Center); “Master’s Institutions” (John Jay, Lehman, CSI); “Baccalaureate Institutions” (Medgar Evers, City Tech, York); “Community Colleges” (BMCC, BCC, Hostos, KCC, LaGuardia and QCC, as well as the New Community College); and “CUNY-Wide & Professional Schools” (CUNY’s schools of law, journalism, public health; the School of Professional Studies; and the cross-campus Macaulay Honors College). The ECP says that these categories are based on the ratio of doctoral faculty to full-time faculty as a whole; percentage of enrollment and percentage of degrees that are in graduate programs; “five-year average headcount enrollment”; and the “complexity of regular as well as professional programs at undergraduate and graduate levels.”

According to the trustees’ June resolution, these divisions are designed to reflect “the complexity of specific institutions.” In response to a question from Clarion, CUNY declined to provide numerical cutoffs for the criteria cited in the ECP.

These criteria first formally appeared in 2000 in the board’s consideration of executive pay, in discussing the Mercer consulting company’s first report to the trustees (see article above). The specific division of CUNY’s schools into these types of tiers does not appear to have been voted on by the board outside of its decisions on executive pay, but more general references to a tiered structure (“CUNY’s five top-tier colleges,” discussions of “building a flagship environment,” etc.) have been relatively common.

More explicit discussions of “tiering the system” can be found outside the record of the board’s formal actions. The general idea of formally dividing CUNY colleges into such tiers appears in the 1999 report by former Mayor Giuliani’s panel on CUNY, chaired by the present chair of the CUNY trustees, Benno Schmidt.

Chancellor Goldstein cited “tiering the system” as a personal goal as far back as 1997, two years before he was named as chancellor. In the middle of the last decade his speeches began to declare success. “We have tiered the system,” he told a Manhattan Institute audience in 2006. While the concept has never received the same focused debate as CUNY’s changes in remediation, the administration now treats it as an accomplished fact.

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