A Tale of Two Schools

Borough of Manhattan Community College Struggles Without the Help That Has Come to Stuyvesant High

Besides having fewer senators' children, BMCC has a very different demographic from Stuyvesant. While Stuyvesant's black and Latino populations each make up 4 percent of the student body, BMCC's students are 38 percent black and 30 percent Latino. And according to Professor Bill Friedheim, the college's students probably have "among the lowest income profiles of any college in the country—basically one of poverty."

BMCC officials said the discrepancy between their $75,000 environmental cleanup and the $1 million Stuyvesant cleanup could be explained because Stuyvesant was more heavily used in the rescue effort, and BMCC had more initial and continuing cleanup than Stuyvesant.

"You have to realize [the Board of Education] has far larger coffers than we do," explained Scott Anderson, BMCC's Vice President of Administration and Planning. "They place a very high price tag on the students of Stuyvesant. Even the press made that apparent in the type of coverage Stuyvesant got coming back to school as opposed to BMCC. Anyone who looks at the comparative coverage would be amazed."

The Borough of Manhattan Community College (foreground) and Stuyvesant High School are separated by fortune and a highway.
photo: Michael Kamber
The Borough of Manhattan Community College (foreground) and Stuyvesant High School are separated by fortune and a highway.

BMCC faculty wonder if the fiscal crisis will mean a lower quality of education and another tuition hike. The hiring freeze in the budget means adjunct instructors will not be brought back. Losing adjunct professors would mean a decrease in class offerings and an increase in class size. They fear the recent tuition increase for the school's undocumented foreign students, now required to pay out-of-state tuition instead of resident rates, will chase away many of those most in need of training and doesn't bode well for the rest of the school.

Student services are also on the block, with plans to cut a third of the counselors from the counseling center during the academic year. "Right now, we have nine counselors for 17,000 students, students coming into the counseling center with trauma from losing classmates or relatives," said James Blake, Professor of Social Work and Counseling.

Students and staff at BMCC appreciate that the citywide fiscal emergency will bring hardship for all New Yorkers, but worry that working-class minorities and immigrants will bear the greatest brunt of the economic downturn, just when they most acutely need job training and education.

"Many of the kids here, it's amazing they're here at all," said Professor Jane Young. "They come from truly downtrodden backgrounds but they're so hardworking. We're really a conduit for the American Dream."

Young says she's not surprised that the city has turned a blind eye to BMCC or that it has been marginalized by the press. The media has long "trashed" the school, Young said. Recently, the Daily News ran an article citing complaints that money donated by the United Way to organizations that have suffered financially from the catastrophe was incorrectly allocated and should only go to families of WTC victims. BMCC and most of the other groups listed were advocates for minorities and the poor.

Student Borman remembered the day she came back to school "and there were these cameras standing on BMCC ground but they weren't there to film BMCC. They were standing there to film the students going back to school at Stuyvesant. I was looking at them thinking they should turn around and see this whole other school behind them."

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