New Study Shows CUNY’s ASAP Program Nearly Doubles Three-Year Graduation Rate of Community College Students Who Need Remedial Education

Cost per Degree is Lower with ASAP

(New York, February 25, 2015) — MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, released very encouraging findings today from a rigorous evaluation of the City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), an ambitious three-year intervention to encourage and support community college students to attend school full time and graduate.

After three years, ASAP has nearly doubled the percentage of developmental education students who have completed an associate’s degree: 40 percent of the study’s program group had received a degree, compared with 22 percent of the control group. In addition, because CUNY ASAP generated so many more graduates than the usual college services, the cost per degree was lower, despite the significant investment required to operate the program.

These new results were released at an event with New York City First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris and CUNY Chancellor James Milliken at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Earlier this year, President Obama encouraged colleges to adopt CUNY ASAP in his proposal to make the first two years of community college free.

What Is ASAP?

In 2007, The City University of New York (CUNY), with the support and funding from the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), launched Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) at all six of the then-existing CUNY community colleges. ASAP requires students to attend college full time and provides them with a rich array of supports for three full years, including a tuition waiver that covers any gap between a student’s financial aid and tuition and fees, special seminars and block-scheduled classes, high-touch advising, career services, MetroCards for use on public transportation (conditional on participation in other program services), and free use of textbooks. ASAP also provides support to students to take winter and summer courses. In 2009, CUNY, in partnership with CEO and CEO’s evaluators, conducted an internal evaluation of ASAP and found very promising effects for participating students. At that point, CUNY decided to expand the program and commissioned MDRC to conduct an external study to test ASAP’s effects using a random assignment design, the “gold standard” methodology in program evaluation.

What Did MDRC’s Study Find?

MDRC’s study focuses on three CUNY community colleges: Borough of Manhattan, Kingsborough, and LaGuardia. For the study, ASAP targeted low-income students who needed one or two developmental courses to build their reading, writing, or math skills. The study compares ASAP with regular services and classes at the colleges. MDRC’s report provides results for three years. Key findings include:

  • Boosted enrollment and credits earned. ASAP increased enrollment in college, especially during the winter and summer intersessions. ASAP increased the average number of credits earned over three years by 8.7 credits (47.7 for ASAP students vs. 39.0 for control students).
  • Greatly increased graduation rates. ASAP nearly doubled the percentage of students who earned an associate’s degree in three years (40.1 percent for ASAP students vs. 21.8 percent for the control group, for an 18.3 percentage point difference). It’s important to note that these students had to fulfill developmental education requirements before earning at least 60 college-level credits to graduate.
  • Increased transfers to four-year colleges. ASAP increased the percentage of students who transferred to a four-year college by 7.8 percentage points (25.1 for ASAP students vs. 17.3 for the control group).
  • Lowered the cost per degree. At the three-year point, the cost per degree was lower in ASAP than in the control condition. Because the program generated so many more graduates than the usual college services, the cost per degree was lower, despite the substantial investment required to operate the program.

“These effects are the largest we’ve seen in a community college setting, and they confirm the great promise of comprehensive, integrated, extended interventions to substantially improve outcomes for students,” said Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC. “ASAP shows that students in developmental education can succeed with the right combination of requirements, services, and supports, without changing what happens inside the classroom.”

What’s Next?

Given these positive effects, CUNY continues to expand ASAP, with a goal of serving more than 13,000 students over the next three years. In addition, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation is leading a consortium of funders in supporting MDRC, CUNY, and the Ohio Board of Regents in a replication demonstration of ASAP at three community colleges in Ohio.

MDRC’s study is supported by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and Robin Hood Foundation. The report is available on MDRC’s website.

Contact: John Hutchins, Communications Director, 212-340-8604, [email protected] .

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Headquartered in New York City, with a regional office in Oakland, CA, MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization with 40 years of experience designing and evaluating education and social policy initiatives.