The Research That Changed My Thinking

Vital City

A Thorny Problem With a Seemingly Simple Solution, by John King

I have spent my career — from my time in the classroom to my tenure serving as President Obama’s secretary of education to my current role as chancellor of the State University of New York — fighting for educational equity as a civil right. When I first encountered the data on the City University of New York’s revolutionary Accelerated Study in Associate Program (ASAP) in 2015, I was awed by the transformative potential to scale student success.

Then working as a U.S. deputy secretary of education, I was jubilant that a problem so thornily insoluble — the struggle of community colleges to consistently and effectively help students facing remediation needs and financial shortfalls persist and succeed — potentially had a simple solution: Help the students more.

But it was the passage of years and the replication of the stellar data reported by the MDRC on ASAP, first by additional studies of the CUNY outcomes, then by assessments of replications in other communities and states, which convinced me I must work to ensure that the research which had captured my imagination would also change the world.....

.....Eight years later, the results of the 2015 study of CUNY’s ASAP program and its success have been replicated repeatedly. Similar initiatives, implemented and then evaluated in Ohio and at SUNY’s Westchester Community College, produced much the same results.

And while the biggest barrier raised by administrators opposing ASAP iterations is cost, colleges that adopt ASAP spend less per degree granted than those that do not.

To date, CUNY has served over 100,000 students with ASAP or its four-year baccalaureate counterpart, ACE, and the programs have been replicated successfully in seven states.....

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