MDRC, CUNY, and CCRC Receive Grant from IES to Evaluate the CUNY Start Program


The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences has awarded a five-year, $4.8-million grant to MDRC, the City University of New York (CUNY), and the Community College Research Center (CCRC) to evaluate CUNY Start, an innovative pre-matriculation program for students with significant remedial (or developmental) needs.

Many students enter postsecondary education, particularly at community colleges, academically underprepared and are referred to a sequence of developmental, noncredit courses, which they too often fail to complete. To help address the needs of incoming developmental students, CUNY Start is a one-semester multifaceted pre-matriculation program that provides intensive instruction in reading, writing, and math through a carefully prescribed curriculum and instructional delivery. The goal is to help these students bring up their skills and avoid having to enroll in developmental courses.

CUNY Start represents an ambitious initiative to help students with low basic skills levels succeed in college. CUNY’s internal quasi-experimental analyses suggest the program is effective, but there is currently no experimental evidence of its success. MDRC and CCRC will study the effects of CUNY Start on students’ academic outcomes, how these effects vary by population and context, how the program is implemented, and how much the program costs. These findings will help CUNY refine its institutional strategy and contribute to the national discussion on how to increase the success rate of students who enter community college with substantial remedial needs. The evaluation, which will use a random assignment design, will include 4,500 students at four of CUNY’s community colleges.