As President of the College of Staten Island, being a part of the Island, and not apart from the Island has always been a priority for me. The College is the only public institution of higher education in the Borough, and as such, I believe the institution, and those of us who compose it, have a special responsibility to its residents. After Superstorm Sandy, I participated in a serious conversation about how to keep our Borough safe in future storms.

More recently, at the start of this pandemic, the College made preparations with the Army Corps of Engineers to convert some areas of our campus to temporary hospital space to treat Islanders in need of medical care—Borough Stewardship in action. While we were ready to support our healthcare professionals in providing care to our friends and neighbors, thankfully, the reduced infection rates made this unnecessary.

Now the College is prepared to serve our Island community in a more traditional way. During this uncertain time, I’ve heard from and read the accounts of many high school seniors who want to begin their college careers, but are understandably cautious about living at a university away from Staten Island and paying a high tuition for remote, online education at these universities. Some students are so concerned, they are considering delaying their education and career plans by sitting out the next year. My message to all Staten Island graduating seniors or anyone looking to continue their education is a simple one—the College of Staten Island is here for you.  

While we do not know yet whether the campus can be open for traditional face-to-face classes next fall, we are preparing for the possibility of again holding classes online. As part of our preparations, professors are enhancing their online instruction offerings by obtaining certifications for online instruction from CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and receiving additional training and support from our instructional designers and our Faculty Center for Professional Development.

Whatever the mode of instruction will be for the fall, you will be offered a first-rate education from award-winning, nationally renowned faculty like Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tyehimba Jess; physicist Li Ge, who was recently recognized by the National Science Foundation with a prestigious CAREER award; and multimedia artist Valerie Tevere of Media Culture, who was just awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

More importantly, you don’t have to take my word for it. At the start of this academic year, the College of Staten Island again made the Forbes list of Best Value Schools, and many of our programs have separately attained national recognition. Our Economics and Philosophy Baccalaureate programs were recognized by Great Value Colleges, Economics ranked as 15th in the nation and Philosophy as 59th; while the Electrical Engineering Baccalaureate program was ranked 25th in the nation by Affordable Schools.

Even more impressive has been the recognition of CSI’s Social Work program, which was recently cited for having the lowest debt and highest earnings of any program in NYC, including Columbia and NYU. Additionally, GradReports Best Colleges List ranked CSI’s Bachelor’s and Master’s in Social Work programs each as 20th in the nation. Grad Reports has also named CSI’s Undergraduate Nursing program to its Top 25 Undergraduate Nursing Schools 2020 list, while the Master’s of Nursing program was named to U.S. News and World Report’s Top 100 Graduate Schools list.

Our latest accolade came earlier this week with Discover Accounting ranking the College’s Accounting program, in the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business, 16th on its list of 101 Most Affordable Schools, noting “the College of Staten Island CUNY is home to a top notch accounting and finance department.”

I understand the concerns of students making an important decision in an uncertain time. Significantly, I also know the value of a college education. Numerous studies show that college graduates find better jobs, earn more money, and suffer less unemployment than high school graduates do. They also live more stable family lives, enjoy better health, and live longer. We have been here for decades, not only for our students but also for our alumni. We plan to continue to connect alumni with one another to help our community and businesses on the road to economic recovery.

We are here to help provide some certainty in an uncertain time. We are an Anchor Institution on Staten Island—we are your College. While the virus has put a pause on many things, students should feel confident with embarking on their college careers here on Staten Island. With a degree from CSI and instruction from our world-class faculty—whether online, hybrid, or face to face—our students can and do go to the best medical schools and law schools, they go to the best doctoral programs, they get great jobs on Wall Street, and they go to work for the most prestigious not-for-profits. In short, they realize their dreams the same as students from any leading university in the country, right here on Staten Island. 

By William J. Fritz