Million Dollar Gray Foundation Gift Continues John Jay College Graduation Program

January 25, 2022

John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Gray Foundation are pleased to announce a $1 million gift to continue John Jay’s Successful Completion for Upper-division Student Program (CUSP) for two years.

Helping approximately 3,200 students complete the last leg of their undergraduate journey and prepare for graduate school or a career.

CUSP shows the power of marrying data-driven science with responsive, targeted, personal advising. John Jay College worked with a team of pro bono data scientists convened by data science and AI non-profit DataKindⓇ to analyze more than 10 years of student data.

The team assessed why a John Jay student who reaches or exceeds 90 credits might not continue on to complete their undergraduate education, and based on those results created an analytics tool to anticipate which students could use extra support.

The predictive analytics then flags students who fit the risk profile, helping John Jay College to determine which tailored interventions are used to support each student; ranging from email reminders to completion grants, to mandatory meetings with CUSP advisors who work individually with students to help them stay on track to graduation.

In the first two CUSP cohorts, a total of more than 2,100 students earned their degrees after two years, amounting to an average graduation rate of 86.4%, compared to a predicted rate with no intervention of just 54%. That translates to more than 900 students positively impacted by CUSP and earning a degree.

Even the pandemic has not slowed the success of CUSP. The cohort of students who attended John Jay virtually in the academic year 2020-2021 continued to trend upward, achieving a 75.4% graduation rate after one year under CUSP, compared to the first two cohorts (72.5% and 74.8%) who attended mostly in person.

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Graduation Is Not The Finish Line

A key part of the new Gray Foundation grant expands the CUSP program to include career preparation.

This semester, 30 graduating CUSP students enrolled in a fellowship with non-profit Basta to propel them on a career trajectory taking them to the middle class and beyond.

Basta provides one-on-one mentoring and training to help students move from a diploma to their first job in a new career.

These 30 students are enrolled in the fellowship which provides them with assistance in resume writing, interviewing, and dressing for success.

Crucially, Basta mentors will stay with each graduate until they secure that job and even continue coaching them after they start working.

“CUSP students at John Jay College have already demonstrated immense resilience and determination to make it to their senior year, especially in light of the pandemic. We’re pleased to provide this group of students the support they need to graduate and embark on their paths to long and successful careers,” say Mindy and Jon Gray, Co-Founders of the Gray Foundation.

The Gray Foundation’s dedication and the unique DataKindⓇ collaboration not only amplifies the mission of John Jay but also the values shared throughout the City University of New York.

“Thanks to the Gray Foundation and their generous gift, John Jay’s highly effective CUSP program will continue to improve student success, while helping students prepare for their chosen careers after graduation, ensuring that the City University of New York remains a powerful engine of social mobility,” says CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “We thank the Gray Foundation for their continuing support of CUNY and its historic mission.”

Using the trifecta of education, philanthropy, and data to champion positive change is a model that benefits generations of students.

“We are so grateful for Jon and Mindy Gray’s generosity. Their gift will help thousands of students graduate. Students who may not have otherwise received their degrees without their support,” says John Jay College President Karol V. Mason. “Supporting the success of our students is critical to the success of students’ families, their communities, our state, and our country.”

One of those students is Chelsea Cruz ’21. Chelsea needed just a few more classes to graduate when she reached her senior year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

But she had run out of financial aid to help pay her tuition, creating a big question mark of whether she’d get her diploma.

“I lost my job due to Covid and it was devastating for me because it gave me no purpose. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the year in school and in my life,” says Cruz, a Forensic Psychology major who transferred to John Jay from LaGuardia Community College. “CUSP helped prepare me to register for the classes I needed and motivated me to not fall behind so that I could graduate on time.”

Chelsea applied for and received a completion grant funded by the Gray Foundation and finished her undergraduate career strong, making the Dean’s List, “I want to say ‘Thank You’ very much to the Grays for assisting me with the hardship of paying off my tuition balance. This gives me the opportunity to pursue my career and make a major impact in today’s society.”

Chelsea is just one of the thousands of John Jay students who have benefited from CUSP’s intervention, which was launched thanks to generous seed funding from the Price Family Foundation.

“Our investment in CUSP and John Jay’s students demonstrated the critical importance of personalized attention to help students navigate a complex system and get over the finish line to graduation,” says Joanne Duhl, Executive Director of the Price Family Foundation. “We are proud of the results of the pilot project, and thrilled to see that the program will continue and expand to serve more John Jay students.”

“My job shouldn’t be to just get our students out the door with a degree, it needs to extend beyond that, to help them answer the question, ‘What comes next?’” says Associate Provost for Undergraduate Retention and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Dara Byrne. “The Gray Foundation sees that need and by working with Basta we are creating a pipeline that will set our students up for a productive, meaningful, and justice-focused future.”

For Ashanti Vanier-Waldron ’22, Basta provides a sense of security and a focused path forward on her future.

“As a psychology major, I wasn’t sure what jobs I could pursue but through Basta I’ve already met people who showed me options I never thought of,” says Vanier-Waldron who plans to graduate in the spring and eventually wants to become a clinical psychologist. “It answers the question of ‘Now what?’ and makes me more confident as I get closer to graduation”

That’s exactly the response Basta is looking for as it builds a network of support for each student and determines their collective and individual needs for advancement.

“Basta jumped at the opportunity to be part of this integral initiative!” says Basta Founder Sheila Sarem. “Across the last five years, we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the committed and hardworking leaders at John Jay to support an amazing community of young people and were thrilled at the prospect of deepening our partnership and driving greater impact for well-deserving first-generation college students.”

The Gray Foundation further cements John Jay’s commitment to investing in opportunities for students. This collective approach fuels educational outcomes of social and economic mobility.

“The John Jay Foundation deeply appreciates this important contribution from the Gray Foundation, after the original support from Jen and Michael Price and the Price Family Foundation. This is a wonderful philanthropic partnership,” says Jules B. Kroll, Chairman of the John Jay College Foundation, Inc.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice

An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations.

John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.

For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege.

The Gray Foundation

The Gray Foundation is committed to improving the lives of low-income children in New York City. The Foundation partners with leading nonprofits to provide access to education, healthcare and opportunity for children across all five boroughs.

In addition, the Foundation is focused on raising awareness, accelerating research, and improving treatment for individuals who have inherited BRCA mutations.

Mindy and Jon Gray founded the Gray Foundation in 2014. They have given over $225 million in support of these missions.

For more information, visit


Basta launched five years ago with the audacious goal of closing the employment gap for first-generation college students of color.

We launched in what was then a nascent field, with only anecdotal results, and few organizations that had proven outcomes in supporting students to launch great careers.

As a first-mover in a growing field, we have directly supported more than 700 college students, 80% of whom are securing career pathway jobs upon college graduation.

We wanted to demonstrate that first-gen college students of color can thrive in white-collar jobs in blue-chip companies and are now poised to scale our growth to impact thousands more students across the country. Visit

The Price Family Foundation

The Price Family Foundation focuses on helping economically disadvantaged young people reach their fullest potential and on investing in promising approaches to treating diseases and advancing the field of medicine.

The foundation believes that it can have the greatest impact by concentrating its grantmaking on specific communities and areas of medicine and by supporting great organizations and individuals.

The foundation has deep experience in helping young people apply for and enter college and persist to graduation.

For the last 15 years, the foundation’s own College Success Program has directly supported low income graduates of NYC public high schools through college and into career.

The lessons learned from that program – including the importance of mentoring/coaching – are embedded in John Jay’s CUSP Program.


DataKindⓇ is a global nonprofit that harnesses the power of data science and AI in the service of humanity.

Named one of Fast Company’s top 10 innovative nonprofits, DataKind helps mission-driven organizations unlock their data science potential ethically and responsibly.

We team talented pro bono experts with visionary social actors to collaboratively design innovative solutions to tough social challenges.

Top data scientists generously volunteer to help organizations reduce costs, automate systems, embrace predictive analytics, and become more efficient and effective overall.

Launched in 2012, DataKind has Chapters in Bangalore, San Francisco, Singapore, United Kingdom, and Washington DC. For more information, visit

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