CUNY Graduates are the Secret Weapon of NYC Businesses

As businesses struggle to find key talent, many NYC-based businesses will seek out potential new hires from candidates at NYU, Columbia, other Ivy League schools, and other marquee Universities, not nearly enough are recruiting from NYC’s best-kept secret: The City Universities of New York (CUNY).

CUNY’s 25 NYC-based colleges produce 55,000 graduates per year, a never-ending flow of high-value talent. As the recipient of an MBA from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, a CUNY University, I may be biased to the value of a CUNY education. Still, to this day, I remain in awe of the quality of the education and the incredible diversity I encountered while at Baruch.

Despite being under-the-radar, CUNY has a wealth of high-profile graduates. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State (among many prestigious titles in government and Armed Services) graduated from City College of New York (CCNY). So did Upton Sinclair, polio vaccine inventor Jonas Salk, and a host of author politicians, scientists, and artists. Alums have received 13 Nobel Prizes and 26 MacArthur “Genius” Grants. 

We have seen that many business leaders complain about pipelines and recruiting diversity in their companies, especially in the past few years. It is safe to assume those that do have not been introduced to the amazing CUNY graduates. But why should businesses look to CUNY for future hires? Here are just five.

  1. 1. First-generation hustle.  44% of recent undergraduates were first-generation college students. When many companies are struggling to find workers of all professions, it’s worth tapping into this talented pool. While first-generation college students, many of whom are immigrants, contain multitudes, they are often united by a unique perspective: that nothing was and will be handed to them, and they feel they have to work harder to make it. CUNY schools provide a wealth of programs that support this transformational change in student’s lives.

  1. 2. Immediately local and available. The COVID-19 pandemic turned most workforces virtual, and it may irrevocably alter how businesses find their workers. But offices will reopen, and companies will want employees to return. Many of those that fled during the pandemic are likely to either negotiate permanent remote status or potentially leave their company if forced to return to the office. But CUNY students never left. More than 80% of graduates remain in New York, according to the University. They’re ready to return when it’s safe and can provide the foundational workforce to return to offices.

  1. 3. Diversity of Experience and Thought. At Baruch, for example, students hail from 168 countries and speak 111 languages. Students graduate with a broad experience of many cultures and immediately know how to work with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. CUNY colleges, for a plethora of reasons, help students better adapt to a world of diversity. LaGuardia Community College’s stated mission is “to educate and graduate one of the most diverse student populations in the country to become critical thinkers and socially responsible citizens who help to shape a rapidly evolving society.” As companies struggle to meet the renewed values-based expectation of their stakeholders, finding young professionals who have been studying these issues is a huge boon for building a successful organization from the ground up.

  1. 4. Quality of Education. U.S. News and World Report listed ten CUNY senior colleges in its 2021 rankings for top-performing public schools in the northern United States. Recently, Baruch’s Master of Science in Financial Engineering (MFE) program was ranked #2 in’s “Quant Finance Master’s Guide 2021,” ahead of New York University, Columbia University, and other more illustrious schools. 

  1. 5. Practical Experience: CUNY colleges boast an incredible roster of professors and adjuncts, most senior executives or running their businesses. They are still engaged in the work that they teach and include in their lectures and curriculum with guest lectures discussing current events using real-world examples.

Of course, you can find excellent candidates everywhere. But recruiting from the usual colleges and universities means you are likely competing against more companies for those candidates. By focusing your efforts on CUNY schools, you are more likely to reach a diverse, dedicated group of young professionals that will provide a unique perspective to your business.