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News Briefs


CUNY Prof Wins Prestigious ‘Genius’ Grant

Ben Lerner, professor of English at Brooklyn College, was awarded a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship earlier this month. The prize, often referred to by its nickname, the “genius grant,” awards $625,000 in unrestricted funds to those who have shown extraordinary originality in their creative pursuits.

“Lerner makes seamless shifts between fiction and nonfiction, prose and lyric verse, memoir and cultural criticism, conveying the way in which politics, art and economics intertwine with everyday experience,” reads a statement on the MacArthur Foundation website.

The New Yorker praised Lerner’s first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, as “subtle, sinuous and very funny.” The New York Times described his second novel, 10:04, as “frequently brilliant.”

“I think of the Fellowship as a challenge – in the most generous form imaginable – to do more and more adventurous work,” Lerner told CUNY Newswire.

Committed to both his craft and his students, Lerner has mentored students who later won prestigious literary prizes themselves, including Ocean Vuong, Class of 2012, who received the prestigious Pushcart Prize in poetry.

Cuomo Considers Free Community College

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office is in talks with the White House to become part of a program that could make community college free in the state, according to Carl Campanile of the New York Post.

College Promise is President Barack Obama’s proposed plan to make community college free to students in states that take part, with the federal government footing three-quarters of the cost and states providing the rest. The proposal currently faces an uphill battle in Congress, but the Post reports that the White House has been luring state officials to join the campaign and possibly take part in federal pilot programs.

The federal initiative could create savings in the state budget. The state currently pays a quarter of community college costs, according to Politico New York – the same amount required of states in the proposed federal plan. With the federal government footing the bill for the rest, the state would be relieved of its obligations to community college students in the New York Tuition Assistance Program.

PSC president Barbara Bowen, invited to a White House summit on Obama’s free community college proposal, voiced concern that eliminating tuition without substantially increasing funding will leave the nation’s community colleges unable to maintain academic quality. Any new program, she urged, must address the staffing crisis in community colleges and the reliance on thousands of underpaid adjuncts.

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