The City University of New York (CUNY) is the nation’s largest urban public university, consisting of seven open-access community colleges, 11 senior colleges, and seven graduate and professional schools. The colleges are distributed across the city and serve 243,000 degree-seeking students and approximately 200,000 noncredit/continuing education students annually. Recent system and state policy developments are positioned to offer additional support and completion momentum to current and future CUNY students. Three years ago, CUNY’s Board of Trustees established a policy that requires all CUNY colleges to have an official user-friendly process for applying Credit for Prior Learning to college credit degrees and certificates. This policy is now active at all CUNY institutions. In addition, the state of New York expanded eligibility for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to part-time students effective immediately, enabling at least 30,000 more learners to receive aid. The program requires matriculation into a college credit program of study, something which micro-pathways accelerate since all are designed with credits that apply to higher learning. Final regulations are being established that include resources available to non-citizens who reside in the state. In addition to policy partners, CUNY schools also benefit from a partnership with the New York Jobs CEO Council, that connects colleges to corporations throughout the New York metropolitan area to enrich training programs and expedite job placement for completers.
CUNY colleges that were part of the Community College Growth Engine’s first cohort include Kingsborough, Queensborough, Borough of Manhattan, and LaGuardia community colleges.
Queensborough Community College (QCC) was founded in 1971 and is currently led by Dr. Christine Mangino, who was appointed president in 2020. Serving the Queens community from its campus in Bayside, New York, the college enrolls over 12,000 credit students and nearly 5,000 continuing education students from 117 countries who speak more than 64 languages. Noted for the approximately equal representation of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and white learners, the campus prides itself on the relevance of its programs and the variety of learning modalities offered for local students beginning in high school and continuing through adulthood. Students at Queensborough can choose from over 70 areas of study, many of which are linked to stackable credentials with high workforce relevance.
What is a micro-pathway?
Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage, and start learner-earners on the path to an associate degree.
CUNY Queensborough designed two micro-pathways in information technology (IT): Cloud Computing and Software Engineering, which are explained below.
CUNY Queensborough Community College’s Cloud Computing micro-pathway leads to a career as an entry-level Cloud Engineer. Download the PDF.
CUNY Queensborough Community College’s Software Engineering micro-pathway leads to a career as an entry-level Software Engineer. Download the PDF.
The college is applying the micro-pathway design framework across existing and new workforce programs. QCC is proactively analyzing job listings in 36 specific areas to ensure alignment with current micro-pathway training programs. This assists in continuing to build strong employer partnerships and to increase successful learner placement upon program completion.
Job placement is transforming from the traditional model of linking students with openings to a proactive model that engages employers continuously to ensure learners have the needed skills employers require.
An elevated Amazon Web Services (AWS) partnership is expanding awareness of workforce trends and helping college leaders and faculty micro-analyze curriculum to expedite placement in AWS-affiliated companies. This effort includes a talent fair where the top 50 Cloud Computing students present their skills via learner profiles to interested employers in a reverse job fair concept. The model has already expanded to other learner populations, including a Women in Technology Hack-a-Thon.
The intensive employer engagement has expanded to Google IT and YouTube, with a cadre of 150 employers in a program bridging noncredit and credit courses. Although outside the original scope of CCGE micro-pathways, this is an especially significant effort as Google and YouTube elevate their national profiles as providers of training and certifications in partnership with an accredited institution of higher education.
With enhanced regional visibility from the deep employer engagement, other sector partners are reaching out to QCC. For example, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to co-develop a training program for transportation technicians, and partners in telecommunications want to create short-term and pre-apprenticeship programs for cable technicians and other skilled trades professions.
Obstacles + opportunities
The college’s new ways of deeply engaging employers are changing the very nature of QCC’s relationships with partner companies and employers. Rather than working to improve employer communications and program knowledge, the proactive, co-development model allows employers to collaborate with faculty on curriculum to ensure that needed skills are included which expedites placement into AWS-affiliated companies. This is a game-changer for completers and has significant implications for achieving more equitable outcomes for all learners.
Partnering with the Faculty Senate resulted in an approved process for recognizing the first group of five (noncredit) industry credentials into CUNYfirst (Fully Integrated Resources and Services Tool). This milestone opens the door to future system-changing collaborations for students.
The QCC-led CUNY Community College Collaborative is focused on expanding micro-credentials across CUNY and is partnering with the Department of Labor to create a universal student identification number that will create a more unified learning system for students. This opportunity is in the developmental stage but holds great potential.
“Amazon Web Services has always had a close working relationship with Queensborough Community College, but our collaboration has moved to a new level recently as an entire team from our program now partners with subject matter experts at QCC to continuously update training for maximum relevance and to bridge the gap between talented learners and our huge employer network.”
Rebecca Allyn, Head of U.S. Education to Workforce Division, Amazon Web Services
The Education Design Lab thanks the following CUNY Queensborough Community College leaders for their commitment to innovation in the service of student success, equity, and completion: Dr. Hui-Yin Hsu, Lori Conkling, Michael Lawrence, Haiying Xiao, Hamid Namdar, Yuliia Pylypenko, and John Burke.This article by Dr. Sara Lundquist is part of the Lab’s work helping community colleges innovate and transform through the micro-pathways design process. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine here, download our Design Insights Brief, subscribe to our email newsletter for updates, and follow along on Twitter: #Micropathways.