The College Discovery (CD) Program has been a part of the City University since 1964 when it was established by a resolution of the Board of Higher Education. The program began as a five year experiment which sought to demonstrate that, with the proper supportive services, students who were being excluded from the University because of existing admissions criteria could attain a college degree. In 1969 the Program was extended beyond its experimental phase and became a permanent University vehicle in the community colleges for developing college potential among disadvantaged students. The success of College Discovery is reflected in the performance of its students. Retention and graduation rates consistently exceed those of regularly admitted students.

The SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge) Program began as a pre-baccalaureate program at The City College of New York in 1965. It was signed into law by the New York State legislature in 1966 as the City University’s higher education opportunity program in the senior colleges. The legislation was a result of the efforts of social activists and progressive politicians whose vision was to provide access to CUNY for poor students, then largely African-American and Puerto Rican, who graduated from high schools that had not prepared them for the rigors of college. Today there are eleven SEEK Programs across the University: one Program in each of the seven senior and four comprehensive colleges.

In over forty years of existence at the City University, the SEEK and CD Programs have enrolled approximately 230,000 low-income students. Without University access through these Programs, many would not have been able earn a college degree which provided entry into the professions and the middle class. Program students have been recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship Award, the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, the Mellon Minority Fellowship, and other national, State-wide, and local awards.


The shared mission of the SEEK and College Discovery Programs is to assist in providing equality of higher education to students who otherwise would not have such access. The effort is intended to increase the level of education, social capital, and workforce expertise in our City and State. The major objectives that have been identified to achieve this mission are: To provide on each campus a permanent, structured program to assist selected students with specifically defined educational and economic needs to achieve a quality college education and expand their social and career capabilities.

  • To provide a range of intensive support services including supplemental instruction, counseling, and enhanced financial aid to enable students to bridge the gap between remedial programs and the regular college curriculum.
  • To develop, utilize, and demonstrate innovative educational techniques that will enable fundamentally capable students to overcome the handicaps of educational under-preparation and other relevant disadvantages with the goal of obtaining a college education.
  • To promote coordination and articulation between the College Discovery and SEEK Programs for students who move forward into the senior colleges following the completion of associate degree programs.
  • To promote understanding among the faculty and administration of each college with respect to the SEEK/CD mission as being central to the mission of the University.

CUNY Celebrates the Renaming of SEEK

In 1966, the honorable Percy Ellis Sutton, as a member of the New York State Assembly, spearheaded the fight to create the “Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge” (SEEK) Program within the City University of New York. In Sutton’s words, SEEK was created to serve “the injured of our society,” students whose academic potential was not cultivated in the elementary and high schools they attended in poor neighborhoods across New York City. Over the years, SEEK has nurtured students who might never have gone to college. The Program provides academic, counseling, and financial support, services that have enabled thousands to obtain a college education and subsequently pursue rewarding careers. To honor his memory, on July 1, 2011, the program Sutton envisioned will officially become The Percy Ellis Sutton SEEK Program.