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Universities Compete For NYC Grant


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Amid all the big university match-ups that excite the alumni at this time of year, here's one that actually may have educational consequences and job creation prospects beyond the NFL draft. It is Stanford versus Cornell, and maybe City University of New York, NYU, Carnegie Mellon or Columbia and perhaps a dozen or more other competitors. It's a competition to set up a new graduate school in New York City. For more on this, we're joined by Daniel Massey, who's written about this for Crain's New York Business.

And, Daniel Massey, as I understand, this is the result of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ambition to make New York City the tech capital of the world. What exactly is the city offering?

DANIEL MASSEY: The city is offering up to $100 million in infrastructure improvement costs, and the city is offering a piece of land - Roosevelt Island, the Brooklyn Navy Yard or Governors Island - or applicants can propose their own sites. And he's hoping to make the city into a Silicon Valley. He's basically said bring it on. He gave a major speech announcing this competition. And it's attracted interest worldwide, from universities as far as Israel, the United Kingdom, India, Korea.

SIEGEL: And what we're talking about here is a graduate school only, not an undergraduate college but certain tech graduate programs?

MASSEY: Yeah. You will be allowed to have some undergraduate students, but the focus is really for a graduate program. The idea is that you're going to be creating ideas that will turn into companies that will produce jobs and that the jobs will then stay in New York. And there's a, you know, there's a big section of the application that's focused on how you're going to do that, and how you're going to keep these jobs in the city. The mayor has talked about tremendous economic impacts for the city as a result of this project.

SIEGEL: And it's not just individual universities that are pitching their ideas, but there are partnerships of universities that have been formed around this.

MASSEY: Yeah. We've seen some very interesting partnerships formed. Stanford has partnered up with City College here in New York. One of the parameters in the application that gives you a little bit of a benefit is if you have local buy-in. And so they teamed up with City College, and they're actually already going to start a partnership there, and then it'll ramp up if Stanford ends up being the winning bidder.

SIEGEL: Now, the thing about the two big names competing here, Cornell and Stanford - the New York City winter might be a great improvement upon Ithaca, New York. But are people from Stanford really ready for a northeastern city as opposed to a paradise in Palo Alto?

MASSEY: Well, John Hennessy, the university's president, said one of the main reasons that they're so interested in this is because of the competitiveness on attracting faculty. They said that they're able to get any engineering faculty they want, except for ones that are not willing to give up the East Coast. And so I think for them, it's about that.

And it's also about kind of proving that you can have a university anywhere and that - you know, they're doing this project now where they're doing distance classes online for hundreds of thousands of people. And they're doing that, and they're making it work. And I think this is another attempt on that front.

And then Cornell already has a huge presence here in the city, and that's really the focus of their application, is going to be that they know New York City. They've built big projects here. They just built a huge medical Center here. They have a huge alumni base here in the city that is very active actually in promoting their application.

And their application is actually focused on four hubs that would be designed towards the city. They have a hub geared toward smart cities, and they have one geared toward healthcare, and they have one geared towards finance. And these are all applied science programs that would create ideas and products for those sectors.

SIEGEL: And how soon would a new university center actually be up and running, say, on Roosevelt Island or the Brooklyn Navy Yard?

MASSEY: The mayor has promised to have shovel in ground by 2013. They've really fast track this. The economy has really been struggling, and a lot of the big projects in the city have been sidetracked. And this is really now what has become the signature, an issue of the Bloomberg administration. And they want to make sure that shovel gets into ground by 2013.

What you've seen, though, is from a lot of these applicants, they're committing that they'll actually start classes before this big campus - let's say it's on Roosevelt Island - we're talking about a campus that can cost from one to $2 billion. It's not going to be done by 2013, but both schools, Cornell and Stanford, have said that they would start classes in 2013 at either of these space. Obviously now, Stanford would be doing it at City College. Cornell would be doing it elsewhere in the city, and they'd probably start their operation in 2012. And so applications are due later this month on the 28th of October, and the city is expected to have a decision by the end of the year.

SIEGEL: Well, Daniel Massey of Crain's New York Business, thanks so much for talking with us.

MASSEY: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.