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Eisenstadt said. “I find it surprising that
any
graduate on time. They work in
factories. They have spouses and parents
who don’t speak English. They write
term papers in a second language. Why
would they graduate on time?”
Community, cooperation, direction
If the writing center is what gets
new arrivals and underachievers on
track in the classroom, the Cooperative
Education program helps students
chart a future course in the outside
world. Every LaGuardia student must
complete two semester-long internships
to graduate. In addition to getting
their feet wet in a field that interests
them, students attend seminars to
help decide if they want to pursue a
four-year degree or go right to work
after graduation. Employers include
large manufacturers and banks, small
shops specializing in photography or
design, magazines, television networks
and newspapers, nonprofits and
government agencies.
“We sometimes offer occupational training, as in travel
or hotel reservations,” said Jack Rainey, the director of
cooperative education at the college. “But sometimes the
career exploration is much less specific. It also depends on
what the company needs. At Verizon (the local telephone
provider), students have been repairing derelict equipment
and building new networks.”
At Community Board 3 in Queens, a local government
advisory body funded by the city, one LaGuardia student
per semester works on a prototype for a Community Board
website. Tom Lowenhaupt,
one of 50 volunteer board
members whose own company
donated server space for the
site, explains the scope of the
project, gives students direction
and sends them home to write
the code. “This is not just
about programming in HTML
or Java,” Lowenhaupt said. “I
try to teach them to solve a
communications problem. They
need to learn to think about
the site from the user’s point of
view.”
Every intern is likely to
have a slightly different work
experience, since each company
tends to develop its own co-op model, Rainey said. One
technology firm that uses LaGuardia interns on a help desk
hired LaGuardia graduates (former interns) to supervise the
rotating crop of workers. “We want them to have enough
experience on the job to begin to think about the world
of work. We offer hope, encouragement, and a little bit of
reality.”
The best and worst of times
In 1991, two years before Giuliani was elected mayor
of New York, the city contributed $121 million dollars
to CUNY’s community colleges, or 42.4 percent of the
budget. Tuition payments of $61.5 million represented
21.6 percent of the budget. By 2002, when he left office, the
city contribution in current dollars had dropped to $101
million, or 28 percent, while tuition payments had more
than doubled to $135.5 million, or 37.5 percent. State aid
remained nearly constant in percentage terms during the
same period, falling to 34.5 percent from 36 percent. Tuition
has doubled, in current dollars, to $1,250 per semester for
full-time students.
“We suffered during those years,” said Richard Elliott,
LaGuardia’s vice president for finance and administration.
“The mayor was not an ardent supporter of community
colleges, probably because he did not have as much control
over CUNY as he would have liked.”
Elliott described the 1990s as a period of trying to get
by from year to year. Even today, he sees paying day-to-
day expenses as one of the greatest challenges facing the
community college during the next five years. LaGuardia is
about to settle a faculty contract dispute and has agreed to
a labor settlement with its civil servant employees that will
cost the school about $1 million.
There is no money in the budget to fund the settlements
as of yet, according to Elliott. The school has made cuts
where it could—everywhere from cleaning and building
maintenance to leaving vacant staff positions unfilled. With
a new mayor in City Hall, the school hoped for additional
Wumi Daramola, whose father was a medical doctor in Nigeria, intended to study
nursing at LaGuardia Community College, but might switch to business.
“I get excited when
people learn to write a
simple, fairly well argued
essay. The first step is
the biggest. I get an
enormous kick out of being
responsible for that step.”
—Bert Eisenstadt, an instructor
at LaGuardia’s writing center