“Anything that taints the image of higher education is not good,” James Sterngold, vice president for university relations at Pace University, said about the scandal involving wealthy parents who paid bribes and submitted fraudulent paperwork in order to ensure that their children would be admitted to such prestigious universities as UCLA, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown.
Sterngold oversees communications, media, marketing, special events and government affairs for Pace, which has campuses in Pleasantville and Manhattan. Its Elisabeth Haub School of Law is in White Plains.
In an interview with the Business Journal, Sterngold echoed the sentiments that Pace University President Marvin Krislov had expressed on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio in Albany.
Krislov said, “Everyone is shocked at the extent of the illegality that’s been going on. Everyone is saying that we need to make sure that our processes are in place to ensure that we don’t have anything like this happen on our campuses and I can tell you that’s a discussion I had with colleagues at other universities.”
“It is certainly not good for Pace or any of our peer institutions that there would be a negative image now that college entrance is unfair and that the application process is rigged,” Sterngold said, quickly adding that they know of nothing like that happening at Pace.
He said there are fundamental differences between the institutions named in the scandal and Pace. “We’re ranked the No. 1 university in the country for economic mobility, something we’re very proud of. What it means is not just that we launch kids on great career tracks, but we take a lot of lower-income students who may not have had a lot of opportunity elsewhere. We spot their talent, we spot their drive and we offer opportunities for them to develop it.”
Sterngold said the silver lining in what he described as “the dark cloud” of the scandal was that it emphasized that a college degree is more important than ever before.
Sterngold joined Pace in July 2018 from The City University of New York where his roles included interim director of communications and marketing. He has an extensive journalism background, including 18 years as a correspondent for The New York Times.
He said while Pace may have been in the past primarily a commuter school, it has evolved into an institution offering full-time, campus living experiences. He pointed to a $100 million investment for improved facilities at the Pleasantville campus and a $60 million renovation of its buildings in lower Manhattan.
Sterngold said Pace’s performing arts school has become one of the most competitive in the country, “Students have to audition to get in. The acceptance rate is very low.”
Sterngold noted that Pace has about 20,000 graduates living in Westchester and has embarked on an expanded campaign to keep its alumni actively involved with the university. He said Pace is poised to be deeply involved as Westchester evolves into a major center for biotech and the biosciences.
“Westchester is going to be the biotech incubator for the East Coast,” Sterngold said. “Pace is going to be the intellectual pipeline to supply the workforce and supply the talent. Without talent, biotech isn’t going anywhere. Pace is really proud of the fact that we’re already talking to all the major players in this field and that this is something that is going to be a major source of growth for us.”
Pace’s enrollment is about 13,000 on all campuses, with 3,000 students in Pleasantville. It says approximately 92% of its students receive financial aid.
“We educate students for the workplace. We ensure that our students graduate with three, four, five internships in their area of interest, so they graduate with a great resume,” Sterngold said, describing a Pace education as “actually delivering the substance that gives you the resume that is going to launch you on a great career.”