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funding from the city. But faced with a budget deficit of $4.8
million, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for cuts across
nearly all city agencies.
Reaching out
In an attempt to make up the shortfall in city funding,
LaGuardia has aggressively pursued grants. In the 1991-92
academic year, the school brought in $6.4 million in grants.
In 2000-01, LaGuardia received $13.4 million in grants from
government sources and private foundations. “We doubled
the dollar volume of grants in the last ten years, but it isn’t
nearly enough,” Elliott said. The school also has a private
foundation that will eventually produce an income stream.
Community college alumni rarely make significant financial
contributions to their alma mater.
Among the larger grants the school has received are
two federal Title V grants for $3.5 million, awarded to
institutions that serve large Hispanic populations. One
dedicates $400,000 per year for the next five years to
upgrade computer networks and fiber-optic data lines. But
introducing technology into a greater number of classrooms
is only the beginning of the tasks set by LaGuardia. In the
long run, the school wants to require almost every student
to create an online portfolio that would become part of the
school’s graduation requirements. In addition to posting
term papers and similar projects, LaGuardia would ask
students to put up videos of final speeches or dramatic
performances, original music, or photos of sculptures and
“We will have the portfolio project going as a pilot project
in a few classes first,” Elliott said. “If it works out, we see it
as a campus-wide requirement.” To ease the introduction of
this requirement among the school’s senior faculty members,
many of whom were hired in the 1970s and have not hurried
into the computer age, LaGuardia has designed a program in
which students become technology mentors for faculty.
The school was among several singled out for recognition
this year by the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation. Based in
Steady Growth at LaGuardia
July 2008
aGuardia Community College, which was described as “the
world’s community college” in a spring 2002
National CrossTalk
article, has been living up to its reputation in the years since.
In fall 2007 the college, located in the New York City borough of
Queens, enrolled students from 156 countries, speaking 118 different
native languages. Fifty-nine percent were foreign born; 53 percent
were first-generation college students. A majority were low income.
There has been steady growth. Fall 2007 enrollment included
15,169 credit students and 58,281 non-credit.
Although the number of white students has increased in recent
years, they remain a minority. In fall 2006 the student population was
38 percent Hispanic, 21 percent Asian, 20 percent black, 15 percent
white and six percent “other races and ethnicities.”
Since most LaGuardia students must combine their studies with
jobs and family responsibilities, they often take longer to earn degrees
or certificates.
“We continue to look
for ways to enable our
students to earn degrees or
certificates in two years,” said
Gail O. Mellow, LaGuardia’s
president since 2000, in a 2008
In recent years the college
has been “trying to create
career paths, so students can
move from lower-paying jobs like cleaning rooms in Manhattan
hotels to something that pays better and is more interesting,” Mellow
For example, after taking ESL and other remedial classes, a
student “might move to classes for home health aides, then to a
certified nurse program, after that training to be a phlebotomist or a
similar job, and perhaps eventually to a nursing program, either LVN
(Licensed Vocational Nurse) or
RN (Registered Nurse),” Mellow
There has been an
increasing focus on electronic
portfolios, in which students
keep a record not only of their
educational progress but also of
their personal life experiences.
These portfolios make it
easier for “students whose lives
are quite complex—they have
families, or hold part-time
jobs or perhaps are in drug
recovery—to get a community
college education,” Mellow
said. “We think this is a very
important development—it has
become the singular pedagogy
of the college.”
“These ‘e-portfolios’ are both a record of students’ work and a
reflection on their learning experiences,” said Bret Eynon, executive
director of the LaGuardia Center for Teaching and Learning. “They
are a mix of the academic and the personal. They allow students to
capture what’s happening to them, to reflect on how they’re changing.”
Since the program began in 2001, between 13,000 and 15,000
students have compiled e-portfolios, Eynon said. Enrollments have
risen from 5,000 in the 2005-06 academic year to more than 7,500 in
“This e-portfolio is basically a showcase of my best works and
pieces that I’ve done to date,” Abigail Philip, an aspiring teacher who
was raised on the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, wrote
in her electronic journal. “This tool is basically one of my tickets
into the workplace or a four-year institution. This is a perfect way
of displaying my abilities, not only academically but socially and
personally as well.”
—William Trombley
Fall 2007 enrollment
at LaGuardia included
15,169 credit
students and 58,281
There has been an
increasing focus
on electronic
portfolios, in which
students keep a
record not only of
their educational
progress but also of
their personal life