N.Y.C. Mayor Unveils Initiatives To Create Universal College-going Culture

By Suman Guha Mozumder, Posted On : October 24, 2016 8:54 pm

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30:  New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio speaks at a press conference to announce the city will not appeal a judge's ruling that the police tactic "Stop-and-Frisk" is unconstitutional, which the judge had ruled over last summer, on January 30, 2014 in in the Brownsville neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough ofNew York City.  DeBlasio, who campaigned for mayor saying he would stop "stop-and-frisk," stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who staunchly defended the tactic.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says while there may be some truth in Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric that American jobs are being outsourced, those employment opportunities could not have been kept within the United States because of the country’s historical lack of proper educational framework.

“The United States as a country has not created the framework in terms of education and training to keep those jobs here that are being outsourced, and we have to address that issue. We need to focus on that, on quality of education and training in IT and related high-tech industries,” Mayor de Blasio told Desi Talk in an Interview at his office in City Hall Oct. 18.

As part of that plan to focus on education and training, the mayor wants to create awareness in the community about the benefits and the need for college education for young immigrants. His office has announced a college application week program from Oct. 17 to 21 in which the City’s 365 high schools were to participate to learn more about the college planning and application process, and also about financial incentives for low-income families.

“These programs are really meant to create a universal college-going culture, and will provide some particular support for families facing particular struggles. Our ‘College Access for All’ initiative stems from our belief that all New York City students can reach their full potential, regardless of the neighborhoods they live in or whether their parents went to college,” the mayor said.

As part of that, he said, the administration is making the investment to get it done – from making the SAT coaching available for free during the school day, to eliminating the CUNY application fee, to bringing a record number of schools into college application week – this year.

Asked about the scope for gainful employment once someone finishes college education, the mayor admitted that there have been some instances, where even with college education people have not got the kind of jobs they deserve. Nonetheless, he reiterated the importance of college education and skills development, “not just for the sake of education, but also for its potential for higher earnings for young people, and for creating a more stable middle class society.”

Giving an example as to why college education is important, he said at in the city there are jobs for which recruitments could not be made because of lack of availability of enough number of qualified and trained personnel. “Technology sector jobs are going unfilled for lack of qualified applicants,” De Blasio said, reiterating the need for college education, training and skill development in the face of the challenges of the modern economy.

“We have to address all these issues about quality and opportunity for education. We still have too many young people who do not graduate from high school, too many young people can’t be at college because it costs too much and we have not had enough emphasis before on STEM areas in our educational system. The underlying problem relates to a number of policy decisions that we have made that were not the right ones, and we have to address those now,” the mayor said responding to a question.

That is one of the reasons, the mayor said, he supports Hillary Clinton as President “because she is the kind of a leader who would do what we are just now talking about – quality education and skill development for all.”

Elaborating on his college education plan, the mayor said the City would waive college application fee, based on family income. Besides, every student will have a plan developed for him or her, the mayor said, to determine what their pathway would be after school. “Students, irrespective of their background and their families’ financial status, will get a chance to visit a college campus while still in middle school so they can get acclimatized to college environment. Students can also decide whether want to go for regular college education or for some vocational or other training,” De Blasio said, adding that the needs of all immigrant groups are not the same.

“For example, I had the honor of doing a lot of work with the Indian-American community, and it is absolutely fair to say there are many success stories in the (Indian-American) community and they have tremendous network of people who can help each other and they have a long history of focus on education,” the mayor said,

He said the idea is to “lighten the burden in terms of young people from all communities, trying to sort their way out in a new reality and new culture where they can understand the best way to go about reaching college education.”

He noted that when he grew up in the U.S., a high school diploma was enough for young people to get a good, well-paid job in manufacturing or other sectors which were available. “But that is not the case anymore. A college degree is a must in the modern economy to be able to get into any kind of a job to begin with, and through various initiatives we just want to create that awareness in the communities,” De Blasio said. In this regard he emphasized the role of guidance counselors whose services will be made available for free to deserving students.

Alongside creating awareness about college education, the mayor has also announced a program for the City’s minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises. The mayor has set an ambitious goal of awarding at least 30 percent of the dollar amount of City contracts to M/WBEs by 2021. These would include prime and subcontracts with mayoral and certain non-mayoral agencies.

“As a city, we are committed to ensuring that all people – regardless of race, gender or ethnicity – have the means to succeed in our economy. It is a fact that when minority- and women-owned businesses have the opportunity to participate in our economy, communities across New York City and the City as whole thrive,” Mayor Blasio said earlier in a statement.

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