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Queens institutions of higher learning rebound from precarious COVID-19 era

Sep. 25, 2023 By Bill Parry

After more than three years of tumult and uncertainty wrought by the COVID-19 lockdown, Queens’ institutions of higher education have regained their footing and are once again flourishing.

None were impacted more during the pandemic than LaGuardia Community College, which saw enrollment decline by nearly 35% following the initial wave that turned Queens into the “epicenter of the epicenter” during the coronavirus public health emergency.

“Enrollment at LaGuardia Community College is up this fall, reversing a steep decline caused by the pandemic,” LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams said. “Close to 4,000 new students have signed up for majors in Health Sciences, STEM, Business, Humanities and more. Since we are the third largest producer of STEM graduates in the CUNY system it’s no surprise that 172 new students have enrolled in our engineering programs.”

In response to the critical shortage of frontline health care workers across the city, LaGuardia also launched its “3,000 Heroes” initiative to increase the number of students in training programs for the health professions by aiming to graduate 3,000 frontline health care workers by 2027.

The nursing program at LaGuardia Community College was named the top program in New York state.Courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

“We’re thrilled to see so many new students coming to LaGuardia for Nursing, LPN, EMT, Paramedic, Community Health Worker and other health-related programs,” Adams said. “The secret to all this is our amazing faculty – professors who are experts in their fields, love teaching and are fully committed to helping our students succeed. And with them, hundreds of LaGuardia staff are doing everything they can to make the college a positive, supportive and fun place to be. All that talent in service to our wonderful students makes LaGuardia Community College the American Dream Machine.”

In October, 2022, the nursing program at LaGuardia Community College earned the top ranking in New York state, with courses covering nearly 75 different specialties and months later, St. John’s University reestablished its own nursing program and began constructing its new $106 million Health Sciences Center at the heart of it Hillcrest campus.

St. John’s University will open its new $106 million Health Sciences Center in 2024.Courtesy of SJU

“Opening in Fall 2024, the St. Vincent Health Sciences Center will usher in a new era of health science education and nursing at St. John’s,” St. John’s University spokesman Brian Browne said. “The building will be home to current health sciences programs and new and emerging programs. It will include classrooms, labs, simulation facilities and common areas, and will reimagine and enhance the Great Lawn of our picturesque 100-acre campus.”

After it was founded in 1870 in a one-room farm house in Brooklyn, SJU moved to Queens in the 1950s and now offers prospective students a wide-range of academic programs.

“You receive individualized attention from the world’s leading innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and trailblazers — all of whom are focused on your success in the classroom and out in the world. Choose from more than 100 majors and programs of study in business, education, health sciences, liberal arts and sciences and professional studies to create an educational experience unique to your interests and goals,” Browne said. “St. John’s has more than 195,000 loyal alumni eager to help future graduates succeed through internship opportunities and connections that will last a lifetime. With a St. John’s degree, you will be empowered to know yourself, stand out from the crowd, turn your passion into purpose, and change the world for the better.”

Queens College provides access to the highest quality opportunities.Courtesy of Queens College

Like SJU, Queens College boasts a large and powerful network of alumni and the CUNY school remains highly placed in national rankings. For the 32nd consecutive year, Queens College made the Princeton Review Best Colleges list and is included in “The Best 389 Colleges: 2024” edition; it also was recognized as a Princeton Review Best Northeastern College.

“The future of New York’s higher education system is strong because we welcome people from the world over,” said Queens College President Frank H. Wu. “The strength of Queens College—and the entire city—has always been our openness to people who believe that they can better themselves and are willing to work hard toward that goal. I pursued a career in higher education because I wanted to change the world. I believed then, and I still do even more passionately, that the engine of the proverbial American Dream is higher education.”

Wu added that Queens College offers access to the highest quality opportunities for people to gain knowledge, skills and credentials.

“That is good for more than the individual; it is good for the community and the nation as a whole. Ninety percent of QC students who graduate in four years do so debt-free — often with financial aid available and tuition as low as possible,” Wu said. “ Higher education is a public good from which we all benefit through the inventions that are developed, the businesses that are started, and the taxes that flow from productive citizens.”

In nearby Bayside, Queensborough Community College, a campus of The City University of New York (CUNY), is one of the most diverse colleges in America and has a national reputation for the upward mobility of its graduates. The college offers in-person and hybrid classes and more than 40 degree programs, including a new cybersecurity program and a fully online business degree and it is the highest-ranked community college in New York state.

Interestingly, another CUNY campus in Queens originated in Bayside. York College, which opened its doors in 1966 with Its first classes held in rooms rented from the Oakland Jewish Center before moving to its permanent home in Jamaica, where it has an enrollment of more than 7,200 students.

York College in Jamaica is providing a pathway to the American Dream.Courtesy of York College

“York College was ranked No. 2 in the nation in social mobility for its graduates by CollegeNET,” York College President Berenecea Johnson Eanes said. “This means that a York College degree is a game changer, which leads to greater opportunities for families to achieve the American dream.”

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