MDRC in the News

Column: Innovative Funding Needed for Massachusetts Community Colleges

Dr. Patricia A. Gentile Op-Ed, Gloucester Daily Times

02/2020

The commonwealth’s community colleges are local economic and workforce engines that provide accessible, affordable and excellent educational opportunities for all who can benefit. It’s sometimes hard for folks not in the sector to comprehend the significant services and programs offered by their local community college and the impact on the community, labor force, and neighbors. For instance, at North Shore Community College, since the college founding 55 years ago, we’ve touched the lives of more than 300,000 North Shore residents…

…The community college’s student population is the most diverse of any sector of higher education, with a growing proportion of our students being of a non-majority race or ethnicity. Because we are the most affordable option in the state, we also outperform all other public and private higher education institutions in terms of the percentage of our students in the lower-income strata. That translates into the highest proportion of students who are federal Pell eligible and in most financial need…

…Several years ago, New York’s CUNY system piloted a new model dubbed the Accelerated Study in Associate Program – or ASAP. ASAP students are required to attend full-time while being supported with free tuition, free books, free transportation, enhanced advising, special first-year courses, cohort course modalities, intensive tutoring and career services, and financial assistance for other unmet needs. Not surprisingly, ASAP outcomes are phenomenal in terms of closing achievement gaps, increasing retention and graduation rates. Also not surprising is that it costs more to implement, but the cost per graduate was actually lower than the more traditional model. Many other states looked at ASAP, loved the idea but hated the upfront costs. Except Ohio.

In Ohio, the state took the ASAP model and adapted it for students at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College. A recent evaluation study from MDRC found that the colleges doubled their three-year graduation rates, students enrolled in the program earned 8.5 more credits on average compared to others, and transfers to four-year colleges grew by 60%.

The Ohio adaptation of the CUNY ASAP program cost only about $1,840 more per student per year. And, the cost per degree attained was 22% lower than students not in the program. So, it was deemed an efficient and effective use of taxpayers money to attain much better outcomes in a shorter time span…

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