FAQ from Town Hall Meetings with Dean Pearl | Macaulay Honors College

If you were not able to attend the Spring 2017 town hall meetings with Dean Pearl, or want to revisit some of the info provided, we’ve compiled a list of issues and answers for students.

If you have a question or suggestion that is not on this list, please send an email to: communications@mhc.cuny.edu

Q: Will I be penalized if I self-fund a study abroad program and then apply for a reimbursement through the Opportunities Fund?

A: Self-funding does not affect your place on the priorities list. There is no penalty for self-funding and your chances of reimbursement will not be hurt by self-funding. Remember that, in order to receive Opportunities Funds, you will still need to meet with your advisor before travel and submit all required applications and documentation.

Q: Why are service abroad trips lower on the priorities list than study abroad? Can’t we change the list to make them equal? And about study away? (trips within the United States).

A: The Opportunities Fund Executive Committee decided that Macaulay’s academic focus and commitment to transformative experiences puts a higher importance on study abroad trips.  When the committee meets again in summer 2017 this subject will be discussed further and the priorities list will be examined again.

Q: I am a Class of 2018 student and want to apply for the Opportunities Fund in the fall 2017 semester to support multiple activities/items. Can I be funded for multiple requests?

A: Yes, Class of 2018 students can apply for multiple requests as long as they meet all the requirements outlined in the Opportunities Fund Guidelines. Remember that it is always necessary to meet with your advisor and review the requirements early–before any activities take place.  Look out for an email from the Office of Scholarships and Grant with details about applying for reimbursements.

Q: Why does it take so long to get Opportunities Fund decisions after proposals are submitted?

A: The Opportunities Fund processing has 21 separate steps, given the complexity of the coordination among 8 campuses, Macaulay, and CUNY central.  Even if an application is complete and correctly filled out when it is first submitted, there are many phases of review before a decision can be sent to students.  In addition, the funding for Opportunities Fund grants has to be transferred from the CUNY treasury to the campuses.  This is sometimes a lengthy process involving many levels of approval that are in the hands of the separate budget offices.  We are continually working to be sure that these decisions are made and then communicated as quickly as possible.

Q: Why does it take so long to receive funds even after an Opportunities Fund proposal is accepted? I didn’t receive a check until I was already abroad (or had returned from my trip)?

A: Because the funds have to be transferred from CUNY to the campuses for payment out to students, there are sometimes delays in the processing.  We are in constant contact with the CUNY budget office and the campus budget offices to attempt to speed up the process.

Q: Will the Class of 2019 be able to apply for funding to study abroad in the summer of 2019?

A: Currently there is no option for the Class of 2019 to apply for funding to study abroad in the summer after they were supposed to graduate. Any updates to this policy will be shared with the student community.

Q: Will the Opportunities Fund be prioritized based on usage (e.g. study abroad over internships, etc.) or seniority?

A: For the 2017 – 2018 academic year the Opportunities Fund will be prioritized by seniority. Proposals from the graduating class (2018) will receive top priority for the 2017 – 2018 academic year. For future years, the Opportunities Fund Executive Committee will be revising the priorities list based on student feedback.

Q: Are we considering reprioritizing internships to have the same value as study abroad on the priorities list?

A: The priorities list is developed by the Opportunities Fund Executive Committee which is comprised of staff, Directors, and Advisors. The committee will be meeting during summer (2017) to take this policy question into consideration.  The Committee will be inviting one Scholars Council member from each campus to serve on the Committee to represent the student body at their campus. When composing the priorities list, the Committee weighed our commitment to experiential learning and the cost of each activity to sort each category in order of importance. Macaulay’s internship coordinator is also available to assist in finding an appropriate internship, whether paid or unpaid, to meet individual students’ academic and career goals.

Q: Since everyone may not be able to study abroad during the limited access periods, or to accept unpaid internships if internship funding is not available through the Opportunities Fund, will Macaulay still require students to participate in a study abroad program or internship to graduate?

A: The Macaulay Curriculum Committee will be discussing this topic before the end of this academic year.  The Curriculum Committee is a sub-committee of the Macaulay College Council, our official faculty governance body.  Academic requirements like this are decided, as at any college, through faculty governance.

Q: For students in the class of 2019, if they pursue opportunities before fall 2018, will they be guaranteed reimbursement if they apply in the fall of 2018, after they have completed their activities?

A: There will be a priorities list in place for that semester; hence, we cannot absolutely guarantee reimbursements. Our goal is to ensure that every Macaulay student will have at least one abroad experience. We understand the Class of 2019 will have a small window to study abroad, so we will allow reimbursements for study abroad that take place in the winter, spring, summer and fall of 2018.  The Class of 2019 will be able to apply for a reimbursement in the fall 2018 Opportunities Fund access period. Students should keep that in mind when making plans.  Students are encouraged to apply for internal and external study abroad scholarships. Click here to find a list of those scholarships. Also, for Class of ‘19 students who are interested in group study and will choose a country where Macaulay already has an institutional partnership (currently Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Israel), Macaulay staff will work with them to attempt to identify potential funding sources.

Q: What will be the process for reimbursements for the class of 2019?

A: Class of 2019 students seeking a reimbursement in the fall 2018 semester will need to discuss their plans with their Macaulay Advisors and submit documentation to be eligible for the reimbursement. You will receive an email with further details on how to apply for a reimbursement.

Q: What are other sources of funding I can apply for to support my study abroad experience?

A: Click here for a list of study abroad scholarships.

Q: I’d rather get some funds than none at all to study abroad. Can partial funding for study abroad be an option?  

A: The Opportunities Fund Executive Committee has discussed partial study abroad funding in the past and decided that receiving a small slice of the funding would not be sufficient for most students to study abroad as study abroad can cost from $3000 – $7500. The Opportunities Fund Executive Committee will take partial funding under consideration at the next meeting (summer 2017).

Q: Can I request funding from other scholarships and receive Opportunities Funds? Will applying to other scholarships make me less of a priority when I apply to the Opportunities Fund?

A: Yes, you may request (and receive) other scholarships and still receive the Opportunities Fund for the portion of your expenses that the other scholarships do not cover. Receipt of other scholarships will not affect your ability to access the Opportunities Fund.

Q: What assistance will Macaulay provide for low-income students who can’t afford to be reimbursed to study abroad?

A: Macaulay is currently fundraising to provide a fund for bridge loans to assist students in this situation.  These loans would cover approved expenses and then be repaid from the actual Opportunities Fund grant when that is available.  There is not yet a timeline for when the bridge loans will be in place, but as soon as those funds are available, the process will be announced.

Q: I am a Class of 2019 student and am graduating one year early. How can I get access to the Opportunities Fund?

A: Class of 2019 students graduating early may access the Opportunities Fund beginning in the fall 2017 semester if they have met the following requirements:

  • Discussed this plan with their Macaulay Advisor
  • Are on target to graduate early (Coursework and # of credits)
  • Request permission from Macaulay to graduate early (click here for the form)
  • Receive permission from their home campus to graduate early
  • All students applying for Opportunities Funds must review the guidelines to ensure they meet all requirements to apply to the Opportunities Fund.

Q: Will Macaulay group trips continue to receive priority over trips that students select individually?

A: We have experimented with Macaulay group trips and have found that in most cases, students are more interested in charting their own paths.  Sometimes the kinds of trips for which we have been able to procure funding (Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Havana) do not appeal to the widest range of students in different majors.  We will continue to develop engaging, high-quality group trips, but these trips will not have priority over trips that students select themselves.

Q: What information about the Opportunities Fund is being communicated to prospective students and newly-accepted students?

A: We are communicating a consistent and accurate message: Macaulay students may apply to an exclusive fund to support experiential learning.  We do not mention or communicate a specific dollar amount, and we are clear that access to funds depends on the availability of funding.  As we continue to fundraise to support the Opportunities Fund, the core of what Macaulay offers all students remains intact: personalized advising, access to technology resources and support, community-building through student clubs and cross-campus events, seminar courses,  coaching for specific skills and award applications, pre-professional advisement and opportunities, membership in the network of Macaulay students and alumni, and more.

Q: What are you planning to do in order to create a more transparent environment for the student body?

A: To improve our communications and increase transparency we are:

  • Hosting Town Halls meetings at each campus
  • Working with Scholars Council to ensure students’ concerns are addressed and information is effectively communicated
  • Setting up a suggestion email inbox (communications@mhc.cuny.edu) for students to voice their opinions
  • Using multiple forms of communication including social media to disseminate information
  • We are happy to accept other suggestions for better means of communication.

Q: How is the Macaulay budget structured? Where can I find this information?

A: We are currently working on a budget report to be included on the Macaulay website.

Q: How much in Opportunities Funds is approved each year?

A: On average we approve $1 million in Opportunities Funds each semester.

Q: I have another question that is not answered here, or I want to explore different study abroad opportunities.

A: Your first resource should be your advisor.  Meet with your advisor early and often to discuss your plans and concerns.  You can also send an email to communications@mhc.cuny.edu.

Q: How will the Excelsior Scholarship affect Macaulay?

A: There has been no indication that the Excelsior scholarship will affect the Macaulay Tuition Scholarship. The Excelsior scholarship is need-based and has restrictions that do not apply to the Macaulay scholarship.  

Q: What are some of the ways Macaulay Honors College plans to protect their minority and/or undocumented student population under the Trump Administration?

A: Macaulay stands with the University in protecting all student information in compliance with the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and treating students’ immigration status as confidential, and only disclosing this information when legally required. Macaulay has a strong partnership with CUNY Citizenship Now! and refers students to their immigration lawyers for free, high quality, and confidential immigration law services. Students interested in connecting with CUNY Citizenship Now! may reach out to Veronica Maldonado at veronica.maldonado@mhc.cuny.edu.

Q: Have you considered approaching donors and asking them to fund specific students? Or matching donors with students?

A: We want to provide as many opportunities for as many students as possible.  We always give donors a range of different options for directing their funds.  The most effective funds we can receive are open and unrestricted, so we can meet students’ requests based on students’ interests.  However, when donors want to direct their funds to specific types of students or specific types of activity we are also glad to accept those funds and make those matches to whatever extent is possible.

Q: What funding sources and strategies are you pursuing to support the Opportunities Fund?

A: We are pursuing a variety of sources and strategies, including a mandatory annual contribution from our board members, a planned Opportunities Fund gala, private donors, grants from foundations and in-kind donations such as travel vouchers or other forms of sponsorship from corporate donors.  We are always open to suggestions or leads for productive fundraising avenues.

Q: If more funds become available through more successful fundraising, will there be a change in policies (especially to benefit the class of 2019, but also for other future classes like the class of 2020)?

A: Yes, our efforts are dedicated to providing the maximum possible level of Opportunities Fund support to every appropriate and significant request.  We are especially working to provide more funding and options for the class of 2019. We hope that we will be able to provide more funding than is currently available and will provide that funding as soon as we have it in place.  We do not want to create false expectations and will be careful only to announce additional funding when it is confirmed and in place.  

Q: Given the challenges with the Opportunities Fund, is Macaulay planning to increase or decrease the number of students it admits to the college?

A: There is currently no plan to either decrease or increase the number of students admitted to the college.  We are taking the idea of decreasing the cohort of students admitted to the college into consideration.

Q: One way to support students in funding graduate school test prep is to offer a Macaulay GRE, MCAT and LSAT prep course. Is this possible?

A: Last year we offered a Macaulay MCAT prep course by a hand-picked professional who taught an in-person/online hybrid course. We plan to offer similar courses in the future.

Q: What will Macaulay look like in 10 years?

A: In 10 years, we envision that Macaulay will continue to be among the top 10 public honors colleges nationwide, providing students with a nurturing community, the extensive academic resources of the CUNY system, and a diverse and well-supported array of opportunities for experiential learning of all kinds.