The Bumpy Road to Higher Education; CUNY

In this timeline, we present three areas of development within the higher education system. The history of access to higher education is much more complicated than the average college student realizes, and by interweaving the topics of tuition, women's education, and open admissions, three topics that connect to us personally and to our class, we show how the road to achieve a quality education within the CUNY system and beyond has not always been as easy and as equal as it is today.

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Ratification of the U.S. Constitution

The purpose of the constitution was to create an organized set of laws for all citizens to abide by.

The Free Academy

Currently known as City College of New York, the Free Academy was designed to initiate a free public system for higher education, created by Townsend Harris.

Seneca Falls Convention

Held at the Wesleyan Church, the convention was a gathering of almost 200 women organized to discuss their rights-including education and voting.

Earliest Colleges Accept Women

Beginning at a time when most still believed that women belonged in the home taking care of their husband and children, select schools opened their doors to women.

First Free College for Women

Hunter College becomes the first school to offer free education to women.

Post World War II

Women made up 32% of enrollment in colleges and universities, taking advantage of the need for more skilled professionals

The Great Depression

Women needed to work in order to help provide for their families, so they began advocating strongly for their rights.


The CUNY Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program was designed to allow severely underprepared and socioeconomically strained students the ability to participate in general undergraduate and graduate degree classes.

Higher Education Act

The Higher Education Act provided financial assistance to the general public for the first time.

The Birth of Open Admissions

Open Admissions began at CUNY in 1970, allowing anyone who wanted to receive a college education the ability to do so.

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