What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (2023)

What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (1)

Those applying to college—especially those in New York City—have most definitely heard of CUNY, a famous university system in New York. But what does CUNY stand for? Even more importantly, what is CUNY in terms of the schools it comprises, the academics it offers, and the opportunities it provides students?

We look at all of these questions in detail below, beginning with an overview of the CUNY meaning. We also go over the pros and cons of attending a CUNY school and give you helpful tips for picking the best CUNY school for you.

What Is CUNY? Overview

So what does CUNY stand for? CUNY (pronounced "Q-nee") is an acronym for The City University of New York , a system of public colleges in New York City. It's the biggest urban university system in the US.

For more than a century, the main mission of CUNY has been to provide students in New York and the US with a high-quality, affordable education . The main draws of CUNY are its high academic standards, renowned faculty, and low tuition costs (combined with better financial aid).

Most four-year CUNY schools are also at least somewhat competitive in terms of admission, with acceptance rates ranging from 100% (i.e., open admission) to just 36%.

At present, there are 25 colleges and graduate schools in the CUNY system; these can be found all around the five boroughs of New York City. Here's the full list of CUNY schools , arranged by institution type:

Four-Year Colleges

  • Baruch College
  • Brooklyn College
  • College of Staten Island
  • Hunter College
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Lehman College
  • Macaulay Honors College
  • Medgar Evers College
  • New York City College of Technology
  • Queens College
  • The City College of New York
  • York College

Two-Year Community Colleges

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • Bronx Community College
  • Guttman Community College
  • Hostos Community College
  • Kingsborough Community College
  • LaGuardia Community College
  • Queensborough Community College

Graduate and Professional Schools

  • Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
  • CUNY Graduate Center
  • CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy
  • CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
  • CUNY School of Law
  • CUNY School of Professional Studies

As a whole, the CUNY system offers more than 1,750 degree programs and 1,800 clubs .

You might have heard of SUNY, which is a different New York State-based public university system. Unlike CUNY, which is located exclusively in New York City and receives funding from the state and city, SUNY (short for the State University of New York) is state-funded and has more than 60 campuses all around the state . For more on CUNY vs SUNY, check out our guide .

What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (2) >Hunter College ( Berellian [Alex Lorenz] /Flickr)

CUNY Students & Enrollment Numbers

In total, the CUNY two- and four-year undergraduate colleges have about 40,000 students . CUNY enrollment numbers vary quite a bit among the colleges , with some having student bodies of more than 15,000 people and others having fewer than 8,000.

Of all the four-year schools, the New York City College of Technology, or City Tech, wins the award for largest undergrad enrollment, with 17,000 students. Meanwhile, Medgar Evers College has the smallest undergrad population at just short of 7,000 students.

(Video) What does cuny mean?

As for the CUNY community colleges, Borough of Manhattan Community College has a whopping 27,000 total students , whereas Guttman Community College has only 1,000.

So what types of students attend CUNY schools? While most students are in-state students, CUNY is committed to diversity and welcomes students from all locations and backgrounds. According to the CUNY website , 44% of students are first-generation Americans while about 20% are the first in their families to attend college.

Furthermore, most CUNY schools are considered commuter schools since most of their students commute to college and do not live in campus housing (if even offered). This makes sense when we remember that all CUNY schools are situated in popular urban areas where public transportation is ample and housing is more difficult to find and make room for on campuses.

CUNY Costs & Financial Aid

As mentioned, part of what makes CUNY schools so attractive to students is its bang for your buck. In-state tuition for one year at any four-year CUNY college is just $6,930 .

While the net cost to attend a CUNY school will vary slightly depending on the college, it is typically around $4,000-$6,000 a year . ("Net cost" refers to the total cost you pay after getting any grants or scholarships.) That's without a doubt a great price to pay for a public college education (assuming you're a New York resident).

If you're not a resident of New York State, you'll have to pay much more in tuition and fees in order to attend CUNY.Currently, out-of-state tuition at CUNY (for all four-year colleges) is set at $18,600 per year . However, that cost is much less than the average tuition cost for both out-of-state public universities ($26,820) and private universities ($36,880) in the US, according to research conducted by the College Board in 2019 .

The takeaway? Regardless of whether you're an in-state or out-of-state student, you're likely going to save money if you choose to attend a CUNY school.

In addition, CUNY offers more than 1,000 scholarships . So even if the tuition and fees are too high for you, don't worry you can easily apply for some scholarships in a bid to win some extra cash.

Speaking of saving money, it was announced in 2017 that soon CUNY (and SUNY) would offer free tuition to students whose families have incomes of up to $125,000 a year . This plan is in the process of being implemented and will definitely save lots of students big sums of money! The program is called the Excelsior Scholarship .

The only drawback with this scholarship is that you must stay and work in New York State after your scholarship for the same amount of time for which you received your award, so if you're not planning on staying in the area, it's probably not worth attending a CUNY school under this plan.

CUNY Application Process

Applying to CUNY is actually a pretty simple process. All first-year applicants must apply via the CUNY Application online , which allows you to apply to multiple campuses all at once (should you want to). You may apply to up to six CUNY colleges.

The priority application deadline for a fall semester start is February 1, 2020 , whereas the priority application deadline for a spring start is September 15, 2020 . After both deadlines, applicants are admitted on a rolling basis .

In addition to the online application, you'll need to submit the following:

  • High school transcripts
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation (depending on college/program)
  • Personal statement (depending on college/program)
  • Supplemental application (depending on college/program)

What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (3) Brooklyn College ( Beyond My Ken /Wikimedia Commons)

6 Pros and Cons of Attending a CUNY College

Thinking of attending CUNY? Before you apply, it's important to be aware of the main advantages and disadvantages of going to a college here.

(Video) Apply to CUNY // Hints & Tips- CUNY College Application

Pros of Attending CUNY

  • All campuses are in a convenient, urban location. One of the biggest pros of attending a CUNY college is the huge number of academic and professional opportunities you'll have due to your being in such a central location. Not only are there tons of networking events, but CUNY also collaborates often with nonprofits and other groups around New York to provide students with hands-on work experience.
  • It's cheaper than many public universities and still good quality. As we saw, the cost of attendance here is cheaper than it is at many other public US universities, and that's for both in-state and out-of-state students. What's more, in-state students can now potentially qualify for free tuition if their family makes less than $125,000 a year. This is great when we consider that many CUNY schools are home to top professors and groundbreaking research.
  • Student populations are very diverse. Building an eclectic community of faculty, staff, and students is a critical part of the CUNY mission and allows students to feel safe and accepted for who they are.

Cons of Attending CUNY

  • Most students commute to campus, so you most likely won't get a traditional college experience. This could be a pro if you have no desire to live in a dorm and spend extended amounts of time on campus, but for many, the lack of social opportunities and roommates might make them feel as if they're missing out.
  • Not all CUNY colleges are created equal. This is probably a given, but some CUNY schools are much better academically than others . So before you apply, make sure that you do your research and have a clear understanding of which colleges have higher student satisfaction and better rankings on college lists by reputable publications such as US News and Forbes .

What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (4) Queens College ( Faisal0926 /Wikimedia Commons)

How to Decide Which CUNY Schools to Apply To: 5 Tips

You've decided that you want to attend a CUNY school for college —great! B ut which ones should you apply to? After all, no two CUNY campuses are exactly alike! Here are five key tips to help you make your selections.

#1: Think About Your Academic Interests

First off, what do you want to study in college? Do you already know what you want to major in? It helps to have answers to these questions, but it's OK if you don't just yet.

Not all CUNY colleges offer the same academic programs , so it's important that you get a clear sense of which ones will be a better fit for your academic interests.

The easiest way to find this information is to use the CUNY major search tool . With this tool, you can simply select a major or field you're interested in and then see which CUNY schools offer it.

For example, if you wanted to study Ancient Greek, you'd find that only Queens College offers this as a major. However, if you wanted to study a more popular field such as anthropology, you'd find that most undergraduate CUNY colleges have an anthro major.

#2: Visit the Campuses

Oftentimes, seeing a campus in person will help you determine whether that school will be a good fit for you —a nd the same rule applies to CUNY colleges.

CUNY might be one gigantic university system, but that doesn't mean all its campuses are identical. Some campuses, such as York College and Lehman College, are in more suburban areas, whereas others, such as Baruch and Medgar Evers, are far more metropolitan .

Try to visit the campuses of any (and all) CUNY colleges you're interested in. Taking tours is a good way to familiarize yourself with the campus facilities and get a feel for the social scene. If you can't visit a campus directly, see whether you can take a virtual campus tour through the school's official website.

#3: Decide What Size School You'd Prefer

We mentioned this briefly above, but CUNY colleges can differ greatly in size/student enrollment, so if you're looking for a larger or smaller atmosphere, you'll need to figure out ahead of time how big each school you're considering actually is.

At the senior colleges, undergraduate enrollment ranges from 7,000 to 17,000 students . Medgar Evers College and York College offer the most intimate student atmosphere.

#4: Compare Your Academic Profile With Those of Admitted Students

Because not all CUNY colleges are the same, some will be a lot harder to get into than others .

Before you apply, take some time to figure out which CUNY colleges are your safeties , your target schools , and (if any) your reach schools . This way, you won't accidentally apply to only super-hard schools!

To figure out which CUNY schools are your safeties, targets, and reaches, you'll need to compare your academic profile with those of recently admitted applicants . In other words, you'll look at how your GPA and test scores stack up with that school's averages. You can do this by going to the CUNY Academic Profiles page .

If your GPA and test scores are below those of your CUNY school, then that school is considered a reach. If they're (almost) the same, then that's a target school. And if they're way above, then that's a safety school.

(Video) How do I send official transcripts to CUNY

If you're applying to the maximum number of CUNY schools (six), it's a smart idea to have two safety schools, two target schools, and two reach schools .

#5: Consider Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities

Even though CUNY as a whole is pretty inexpensive and offers many options for financial aid and scholarships, you might have better luck getting aid from one school than another. Remember that each individual college has its own set of scholarships as well, so it's critical that you look into these by perusing the financial aid sections on your schools' websites.

You can also use the main CUNY scholarships page to see what's available for each college .

What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (5)

Recap: What Does CUNY Stand For? What Is CUNY Overall?

The CUNY meaning is simple: it's an acronym for The City University of New York , a renowned public university system with 25 campuses spread around all five boroughs of New York City. It's composed of seven community colleges, 12 four-year colleges, and six graduate and professional schools. CUNY is well known for its high-quality academics and low tuition costs.

While many people apply to CUNY, it's important to be aware of the pros and cons of the system before you submit your applications. Some of the biggest pros include the low (and possibly free) tuition costs, the convenient locations of the campuses, and the diversity of the people.

However, notable cons include the lack of a traditional college experience for commuter students, lengthy and stressful commute times, and low-ranked CUNY colleges that aren't nearly as good as other more prestigious ones.

Before you submit your applications, be sure that you are applying to the right CUNY schools for you. Consider important factors such as size, majors offered, campus atmosphere, and financial aid to figure out which CUNY schools might suit you better than others.

What's Next?

Now you know the CUNY definition, but what are the best CUNY schools? Check out our ranking list to learn about the top CUNY schools you can attend for your undergraduate degree and what makes them so special .

What's the difference between CUNY and SUNY? Our in-depth guide goes over everything you need to know about these two New York-based university systems .

Not sure which colleges you should apply to? Get tips on how to come up with a college list and then read our guide to what looks good on a college application to ensure yours really stands out.

What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (6)

Want to build the best possible college application?

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(Video) Section 2: Navigating CUNY Digital Landscape

We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools .

Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.

What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (7)

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What Is CUNY? What Does CUNY Stand For? (8)

Hannah Muniz

About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.


What is CUNY known for? ›

CUNY schools are known for their affordability, high-quality instruction, and research. They also make up the biggest urban public university system in the United States. As a result of their urban location, most students commute.

What is CUNYfirst for? ›

CUNYfirst (Fully Integrated Resources and Services Tool) allows students to manage their academic careers and financial accounts in real time and more. It gives faculty additional tools to enhance their interaction with students.

How many CUNY schools can you get accepted to? ›

Select your Application

One application allows you to apply to 6 CUNY colleges. Macaulay: if you are a freshman applicant for the fall semester, you can choose the Macaulay application to be considered for our university honors program.

Does everyone get into CUNY? ›

The acceptance rate at City College of New York is 38%.

For every 100 applicants, 38 are admitted. This means the school is very selective. If you meet City College of New York's requirements for GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and other components of the application, you have a great shot at getting in.

Are CUNY schools free? ›

Under this groundbreaking program, more than 940,000 middle-class families and individuals making up to $125,000 per year will qualify to attend college tuition-free at all CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges in New York State. The new program begins in the fall of 2017 and will be phased in over three years.

Are CUNY good schools? ›

Four colleges of The City University of New York have been named among “America's Top Colleges” by Forbes in the magazine's 2021 ranking of 600 top public and private four-year institutions.

What does CUNY stand for? ›

About CUNY – The City University of New York.

How do you use CUNY first? ›

Once you claim your account, enter https://home. cunyfirst.cuny.edu in your browser's address bar. Enter your CUNYfirst username and password and click the Submit button to log in to the CUNYfirst home page.

What is a passing grade in Hunter college? ›

What is the minimum passing grade? To pass a class, a minimum grade of 'C' is required, (except for the Translation/Interpretation Certificate, in which the minimum passing grade is 'B') and you must have attended 80% of the classes.

What SAT score is required for CUNY? ›

SAT I Verbal score of 480 or higher or SAT Critical Reading score of 480 or higher or SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) section score of 480 or higher. ACT English score of 20 or higher. NY State English Regents score of 75 or higher.

How long does a CUNY application take? ›

You are responsible for checking the status of your CUNY Admission Application. For instructions, please visit www.cuny.edu/status. Please allow at least 6-8 weeks after your items arrive at CUNY/UAPC for processing and for updates to be reflected on your Application Status.

Can I apply as a freshman if I already attended college? ›

If you plan to transfer to a four year college/university before you have completed the number of credits needed to be considered as a true transfer applicant you may certainly apply as a freshman applicant.

Is D passing in CUNY? ›

WA - Administrative Withdrawal. This grade, which does not affect the grade point average, is administratively assigned. WN - Never attended.
Grading Policies - Undergraduate.
Letter GradeRanges %GPA
C73 - <772
C-70 - <731.7
D60 - <701
F< 600
6 more rows

What's a good SAT score? ›

In 2019, the average SAT score was 1050. Any score above that would be above average and perfectly acceptable for many colleges. A score of 1350 would put you in the top 10% of test takers and help make your application competitive at more selective schools.

What GPA do you need for CUNY? ›

Typical High School Grades

Applicants require above average high school grades to get into City College of New York. The average high school GPA of the admitted freshman class at CUNY City College was 3.39 on the 4.0 scale indicating that primarily B+ students are accepted and ultimately attend.

How much is CUNY per year? ›

CUNY Tuition
Type of StudentFull-time, Four-Year CollegeFull-time, Community College
New York State Resident$6,930 per year$4,800 per year
Out of State Resident$18,600 per year$9,600 per year

Who gets free college in NY? ›

New York joined the free college movement in 2017 with the Excelsior Scholarship, which covers any in-state public college tuition not already covered by other sources for students with family incomes up to $125,000.

What is the cheapest college in New York? ›

Cheapest Colleges in New York by In-State Tuition
  • CUNY Brooklyn College | $3,465/semester.
  • CUNY Lehman College | $3,465/semester.
  • CUNY Queens College | $3,465/semester.
  • SUNY Empire State College | $3,535/term.
  • SUNY Polytechnic Institute | $3,535/semester.
26 Jul 2022

Why is CUNY cheap? ›

Since most CUNY schools are commuter-based, students don't have to pay for room and board and thus shoulder a lower overall cost.

What is the ranking of CUNY? ›

CUNY--City College's 2022-2023 Rankings

CUNY--City College is ranked #151 out of 443 National Universities. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence. See how this school scored on the key indicators used in the rankings.

How many CUNY schools are there in NYC? ›

25 Campuses in

The City University of New York spans 25 campuses across the city's five boroughs and offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and continuing education opportunities to students of all ages and backgrounds.

Is CUNY a word? ›

No, cuny is not in the scrabble dictionary.

How many students are at CUNY? ›

In the academic year 2020–21, CUNY ASAP enrolled 23,118 (9,664 new) students and has served over 70,000 students since inception in 2007.

How do I pick a class CUNY? ›

Once you've logged in, click on Student Center. To add a class, click on Enroll, then select the term you want to register for. Next, click on search. Then, input your class information (subject and course number, e.g. MAC101).

How do I make a CUNY account? ›

How can applicants claim their CUNYfirst accounts? Print
  1. On the Login page, click 'New User'
  2. On the Account Activation page, enter the following: ...
  3. Confirm your email or enter a new email address.
  4. Receive an email with unique account activation confirmation link (valid for two hours)
12 Mar 2020

How do I get my CUNY ID? ›

How can students view their 8 Digit CUNYfirst ID (Emplid) and email in CUNYfirst?
  1. Login to CUNYfirst at https://home.cunyfirst.cuny.edu. ...
  2. Go to Student Center from the left menu. ...
  3. In the Student Center header, they can view their 8 Digit CUNYfirst ID (EmplID)

What happens if you fail a class in Hunter College? ›

If you earn a failing grade (F or FIN) in a course and then retake the course in a subsequent semester, earning a grade of A, B, C, D, or P, both grades will remain on the transcript. However, the failing grade will no longer be calculated in your Hunter GPA.

Is D passing at Hunter College? ›

Students are to be graded in courses according to the traditional system of letter grades (A, B, C, D and F) or may opt to take some courses for Pass/No Credit (P/NC).
Retention Standards.
GradeDefinitionQuality Points (GPA Index)
B-80.0 – 82.4%2.7
C+77.5 – 79.9%2.3
C70.0 – 77.4%2.0
D60.0 - 69.9%1.0
11 more rows

What SAT score is required for Hunter College? ›

There's no absolute SAT requirement at Hunter College, but they really want to see at least a 1150 to have a chance at being considered.

Is SAT Cancelled for Class of 2023? ›

NCAA Continues to Waive SAT Requirement for Class of 2023; May Drop Permanently. The NCAA Eligibility Center has announced it is extending the COVID-19 waiver that was first put into place in April 2020 in response to the disruptions to academic life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will SATS be removed? ›

Moving away from standardized tests is in-step with other major university institutions. The University of California Regents, for example, voted in May 2020 to suspend SAT and ACT testing requirements through 2024 and eliminate them altogether for California students in 2025.

Are CUNY tests blind? ›

SUNY has temporarily suspended SAT/ACT testing requirements for students applying for admission to a bachelor's degree-granting college for the spring 2021, fall 2021, and spring 2022 terms. You may now decide whether or not to include your scores for admission consideration at each college to which you apply.

How long is a CUNY essay? ›

A personal essay of at least 250 words is part of the application process. Unless a currently enrolled CUNY student, to submit your application, you must pay a $70 non-refundable processing fee.

How many colleges should I apply to? ›

There is no magic number, but five to eight applications are usually enough to ensure that a student is accepted into a suitable institution (depending, of course, on the individual student's record and circumstances). This number should be made up of a combination of “safety,” “match,” and “reach” colleges.

Can you find out why you were rejected from a college? ›

No one can stop you from sending the college a letter demanding an explanation why you were not one of the admitted freshmen students. However, keep in mind that it's also the right of the institution's admissions officers to decide whether or not they will send a response.

Can you reset your GPA? ›

Mainly, it depends on your school. For many colleges and universities, the answer is a flat "no." You must live with your choices and try to improve your GPA by doing better in the future. But some schools will allow you to retake a freshman-year class to improve your grade.

Can I go back to college if I failed out? ›

If you drop out of college can you go back? Absolutely! While the reasons why students drop out of college differ, it's important to keep in mind that it's never too late to go back. In fact, heading back to college after you drop out could help you make a fresh start on your education.

Can you start over your GPA? ›

Colleges and universities have varied rules on grade requirements, which is why the GPA or grade does not carry over any more than a PASS/FAIL. The good news is that your GPA basically starts fresh in your first semester at your new school.

Is CUNY or SUNY better? ›

Academic Reputation

Again, both the CUNY and SUNY systems are known for offering high-level academic programs at a low cost. However, SUNY schools, especially at the SUNY university centers, do have a slightly more prestigious reputation than CUNY schools and also have a higher graduation rate.

What is Baruch College known for? ›

CUNY Bernard M Baruch College is one of the most prestigious colleges in the US. It is one of the ten senior colleges of The City University of New York (CUNY) - the largest urban public higher level institution in the US, famous for its ethnically diverse student body.

Is Baruch the best CUNY? ›

CUNY—Baruch College's ranking in the 2022-2023 edition of Best Colleges is Regional Universities North, #14.

Is CUNY considered community college? ›

CUNY colleges range from community colleges offering two-year associate's degrees to 4-year undergraduate colleges to graduate and professional schools (offering masters, doctorates, JDs, and certificates).

What is the cheapest college in NY? ›

Cheapest Colleges in New York by In State Tuition
CollegeIn State Tuition
#1 Fashion Institute of Technology New York, Public Not For Profit$5,290
#2 CUNY Graduate School and University Center New York, Public Not For Profit$6,030
#3 Talmudical Institute of Upstate New York Rochester, Private Not For Profit$6,150
17 more rows

Is CUNY harder than SUNY? ›

However, SUNY schools do generally have a stronger academic reputation, particularly the university center schools. On average, SUNY schools are more difficult to get into than CUNY schools, and only CUNY has schools with open admissions policies.

Can I transfer from CUNY to SUNY? ›

Students must have 30 credits to transfer to a 4 year CUNY/and 45 credits to transfer to a SUNY college, unless your SAT or High School record demonstrates high academic achievement. To know if your scores are high enough, check with the admissions requirements within the school you are applying to.

How many colleges should I apply to? ›

There is no magic number, but five to eight applications are usually enough to ensure that a student is accepted into a suitable institution (depending, of course, on the individual student's record and circumstances). This number should be made up of a combination of “safety,” “match,” and “reach” colleges.

What GPA do you need to transfer to Baruch? ›

Transfer Application Requirements

There is a minimum required GPA of 2.70 (on a 4.0 scale) for transfer admission consideration. Official Transcripts: All transfer applicants are required to submit an official high school transcript indicating graduation date.

What GPA do you need for Baruch College? ›

Main Academic Excellence that is in line with Baruch admission standards. Score at least a 1240 on the SAT or 0 on the ACT. Maintain a GPA of at least a 3.3.

How many CUNY schools are there? ›

Founded in 1847 as the nation's first free public institution of higher education, CUNY today has 25 colleges spread across New York City's five boroughs, serving 243,000 degree-seeking students of all ages and awarding 55,000 degrees each year.

Which CUNY is best for engineering? ›

Best Engineering colleges in New York City for 2022
  • Columbia University in the City of New York. New York, NY. ...
  • New York University. New York, NY. ...
  • The New School. New York, NY. ...
  • CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College. New York, NY. ...
  • Fashion Institute of Technology. New York, NY. ...
  • CUNY Hunter College. New York, NY.

Do CUNY schools have dorms? ›

A: Yes, you need to be accepted to apply for campus housing.

What is the #1 community college in NYC? ›

Ranking Methodology
RankNameRetention Rate
1Stella and Charles Guttman Community College73%
2Herkimer County Community College61%
3Columbia-Greene Community College59%
4Nassau Community College72%
6 more rows

How many students are enrolled in CUNY? ›

The City University of New York (CUNY) provides higher education to more than 261,000 degree and non- degree seeking students and offers adult and continuing education with over 185,000 course registrations.


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