Perspectives on College Success

January 30, 2017 | SPH in the News

CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy faculty Nicholas Freudenberg was recently featured in The New York Times in a letter to the editor in response to “America’s Great Working-Class Colleges” (column, Jan. 22).

To the Editor:

David Leonhardt calls attention to new research that shows the important role that working-class colleges play in helping graduates prosper and succeed. More than half the students who enter these colleges, however, fail to graduate, missing the lifetime benefits a college degree confers.

My research at the City University of New York shows that health and social problems that interfere with academic success are one reason. Our surveys of representative samples of CUNY community college and undergraduate students show that about half report one or more, and a quarter report two or more, of eight conditions identified in the literature as disrupting academic progress.

These are depression, anxiety, pregnancy or raising young children, partner violence, lack of health insurance, no regular medical provider, food insecurity and obesity.

By helping students overcome the health and social problems that undermine academic success, universities serving low-income populations can contribute even more to reducing the educational, income, health and life satisfaction inequalities that characterize the United States.

The writer is a professor of public health at CUNY and director of Healthy CUNY, a university initiative to promote health for academic success.

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