James B. Milliken (252106)
Credit: CUNY photo

James B. Milliken, chancellor of the City University of New York, announced today in a letter to the University community that he plans to step down as chancellor at the end of the academic year. Milliken, 60, was named chancellor of CUNY, the largest urban university in the country, in January 2014. 

“I will have been at the helm of this most remarkable institution for four years, and it has been among the most rewarding experiences of my life, but I have decided that it is the right time for a change,” Milliken said.

Milliken added, “CUNY is an extraordinary institution, and my time here has been fulfilling beyond measure. The world now knows, from groundbreaking research on an unprecedented scale, that CUNY is the greatest engine of social and economic mobility in the country. I was enormously fortunate to be part of the effort to expand opportunity and success to students on a scale no university can match, and I will always be grateful for that.”  

William C. Thompson Jr., chairperson of the board of trustees, said, “Chancellor Milliken recently informed me of his plans to step down at the end of this academic year. On behalf of the entire board, I want to thank Chancellor Milliken for his tireless dedication to public education and for propelling CUNY to become the greatest urban university in the world. He has been a true advocate, and we deeply appreciate everything he has done for our university system. We wish him good health and continued success in his next endeavor.”  

During Milliken’s tenure at CUNY, the university has opened and expanded important academic programs, become the nationally recognized leader in improving community college graduation rates, been recognized for propelling low-income students into the middle class and beyond on an unmatched scale, launched successful new programs for a number of student groups, including CUNY’s groundbreaking foster youth initiative, and obtained private scholarships for the largest number of DACA students in the country through TheDream.US program.

Milliken led the development of the university’s new strategic plan, Connected CUNY, which provides a detailed set of strategies for expanding accessibility, dramatically raising graduation rates and significantly improving career success for students through private-public partnership with employers. He has led the scaling up of the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs initiative to dramatically boost graduation rates, the launching of a new school of medicine, among the most diverse in the country, and an independent school of public health, new initiatives to diversify the arts institutions in New York and programs to increase the number of women in technology industries.

“James B. Milliken is an extraordinary leader who has served CUNY—one of our nation’s pre-eminent engines of social mobility, academic excellence and community enrichment—and the entire higher education community with energy, grace and vision,” Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said. “JB has poured his heart and soul into promoting student success and expanding access to high-quality, postsecondary education. We will all miss him every day in his role guiding CUNY, but I am excited to see where his passion and commitment will take him next.”

“I have been given one of life’s great gifts — the chance to do something I love that has a positive impact on so many,” Milliken said. “I will always be grateful for that opportunity and for the relationships I have had with the students, faculty, staff and supporters of the City University of New York.” 

John B. King Jr., president of the Education Trust and former U.S. secretary of education, said, “Through groundbreaking research, we can see CUNY’s impact as a powerful engine of social mobility, not just for the State of New York, but for the nation. I have been very encouraged by Chancellor Milliken’s efforts to scale up the successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs initiative. Through ASAP, the university has taken a number of critical steps to dramatically accelerate degree completion, including providing counselors to students who are struggling and assisting students with financial challenges that could block their path to graduation. Chancellor Milliken also has focused on expanding success for all students, particularly the most vulnerable, through initiatives to support foster youth and innovative scholarship programs for students receiving protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It’s my sincere hope that other colleges and universities will learn from the important work being done by CUNY under Chancellor Milliken’s leadership, and I wish Chancellor Milliken all the best going forward.”

Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and former president of the New York Public Library and Brown University, said of Milliken’s contribution: “JB is an outstanding leader of higher education and a profound believer in the mission of public education in a democratic society. He took on the nearly impossible task of running CUNY with the belief that the University could be better for the city, for the state and for the country. We are extremely grateful for his commitment to this goal, especially those of us who live and work in the city.”

Before serving as CUNY Chancellor, Milliken served for a decade as president of the University of Nebraska, his undergraduate alma mater, and before that as senior vice president of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system.

A search for the next Chancellor is expected to begin in January.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 272,000 degree-seeking students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 400 high schools throughout the five boroughs. The University offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.