Changing demographics of college students and new insights into the developmental trajectory of chronic diseases present universities with opportunities to improve population health and reduce health inequalities. The reciprocal relationships between better health and improved educational achievement also offer university health programs a chance to improve retention and graduation rates, a key objective for higher education. In 2007, City University of New York (CUNY), the nation's largest urban public university, launched Healthy CUNY, an initiative designed to offer life-time protection against chronic diseases and reduce health-related barriers to educational achievement. In its first 5 years, Healthy CUNY has shown that universities can mobilize students, faculty, and other constituencies to modify environments and policies that influence health. New policies on tobacco and campus food, enrollment of needy students in public food and housing assistance programs, and a dialogue on the role of health in academic achievement are first steps towards healthier universities.