The mission of The City University of New York, embodied in state education law, Article 125, Section 6201,  as the finding and intent of the New York State Legislature, states in part:

“The Legislature intends that The City University of New York should be maintained as an independent system of higher education governed by its own Board of Trustees responsible for the governance, maintenance and development of both senior and community college units of The City University.

“The University must remain responsive to the needs of its urban setting and maintain its close articulation between senior and community college units. Where possible, governance and operation of senior and community colleges should be jointly conducted or conducted by similar procedures to maintain the University as an integrated system and to facilitate articulation between units.

“The Legislature’s intent is that The City University be supported as an independent and integrated system of higher education on the assumption that the University will continue to maintain and expand its commitment to academic excellence and to the provision of equal access and opportunity for students, faculty and staff from all ethnic and racial groups and from both sexes. The City University is of vital importance as a vehicle for the upward mobility of the disadvantaged in the City of New York. The pioneering efforts of the SEEK and College Discovery programs must not be diminished as a result of greater state financial responsibility.

“Only the strongest commitment to the special needs of an urban constituency justifies the Legislature’s support of an independent and unique structure for the University. Activities at the City University campuses must be undertaken in a spirit which recognizes and responds to the imperative need for affirmative action and the positive desire to have City University personnel reflect the diverse communities which comprise the people of the city and state of New York …”

For the complete Legislative intent, click here


BOASTING WORLD-CLASS ACADEMICS, award-winning faculty and both new and enhanced campuses, today’s City University of New York is attracting students who win National Science Foundation fellowships and Rhodes Scholarships, keeping a nearly 170-year-old commitment to educational excellence and opportunity.

Our mission dates to 1847 when founder Townsend Harris, an early champion of public education and a pioneering diplomat who was the first U.S. ambassador to Japan, called upon New York City to create a public academy of higher learning to “educate the whole people.”

An inaugural class of 143 academically qualified young men was soon assembled. The fledgling school quickly grew in reputation and enrollment and, as a new century approached, plans were approved for an expansive neo-Gothic campus uptown that became the College of the City of New York.

Class of 1888

The Normal School, the first to offer free education to women, became Hunter College in 1914.

Twenty years after the first students entered the academy, a second school for the education of teachers, the Female Normal and High School – later renamed Hunter College in honor of its founder, Thomas Hunter – offered the same higher education opportunities to women.

Fueled by an immigration boom in the early 20th century, City College and Hunter expanded to include evening sessions in Brooklyn and Queens. In 1926, the state Legislature established a Board of Higher Education to oversee the growing municipal college system and expand public access in the city’s outer boroughs. Over the next decade, Brooklyn College and Queens College were founded and Hunter established a Bronx campus, which decades later would become Lehman College.  Read More


Despite the city’s limited resources, demand for public higher education continued to grow during the Great Depression. The colleges created night divisions that charged affordable tuition while offering students the opportunity to work toward their degrees or raise their grades to the levels required to enter the colleges’ free baccalaureate programs. In the ensuing post- World War II years, another dramatic enrollment boom led to the creation of several community colleges, including one on Staten Island. In 1961, the state Legislature formally established The City University
of New York, uniting what by then had become seven municipal colleges
into a formally integrated system and authorizing the new University to offer doctoral programs. Today, the senior colleges have selective admission requirements. Community colleges continue to serve as portals to opportunity for applicants with a high school or GED diploma.

Since 2000, billions of dollars have been invested to rebuild, enhance and expand the University’s 25 campuses. The Craig Newmark Graduate School Of Journalism At CUNY, CUNY School of Public Health, Macaulay Honors College and the innovative Guttman Community College are among the colleges and graduate schools recently established. This greatly expanded University, serving record enrollments, offers tuition-free education to seven in 10 full-time undergraduates thanks to federal, state and CUNY financial aid. In contrast to the crushing debt other students typically carry at many public and private institutions, 80 percent of our students who earn an undergraduate degree graduate with no student debt.

The University’s 21st-century mission remains true to its founding principles of academic excellence, scholarship and opportunity for all. CUNY boasts 13 Nobel laureates and the tradition of high academic achievement continues as our students win prestigious scholarships. In recent years, the University has produced 70 Fulbright scholars, 70 National Science Foundation fellows, 10 Truman scholars and seven Rhodes scholars.

With a flourishing reputation among students and educators alike, CUNY is defining value by providing the opportunity of a lifetime: a high-quality, competitive and remarkably affordable college education. It’s an education that delivers in the marketplace, producing job-ready graduates with respected academic credentials.

It’s a 21st-century education, taught by top scholars on upgraded campuses that is transforming the student experience, bringing jobs to New York and stimulating economic development.

That’s why more high-achieving students, and more students of all backgrounds and abilities, are choosing to study in vibrant New York City at The City University of New York.

Our National Landmarks