Could $2,000 a Year Keep Students in College?

The New York Times

Jessica Ramlakhan, 37, has a goal: She wants to become a psychologist and open a private practice with flexible, family-friendly hours to help troubled teenagers. But until two years ago, between family and work, she hadn’t managed to make it through even one full semester of college.

Problems like hers are common among thousands of students across New York’s public university system, becoming a crisis for its colleges and for higher education nationally. While many elite universities have grown more selective, enrollment has been dropping overall at American community colleges and many four-year colleges, too. When students do enroll, many never graduate.

Now, the university system is hoping a new program can help reverse this trajectory for struggling students — and for the higher education system more broadly. The program, which involves an investment of about $2,000 a year per student and simple strategies like giving students money for transportation, has already been implemented on a small scale at Ms. Ramlakhan’s community college in Westchester, where it has been helping her.

It will now be expanded across 24 additional campuses of the State University of New York, state officials will announce Tuesday. 

Known as ASAP, or Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, the effort has roughly doubled graduation rates for participants at the City University of New York since it was started there in 2007. It provides a set of services like textbook fees, transportation stipends, academic advisement, free tutoring and tuition funds. In exchange, the students commit to full-time study and meet with their advisers regularly.

While the components of the program are not revolutionary, their combination appears to work to increase student persistence. Several studies validate the program’s results, and the effort has been replicated at colleges in Ohio, California and several other states.....

.....John King, the chancellor of SUNY, is hoping for similar results at the 24 SUNY campuses that will enroll a group of 150 students each in the program in 2024. Funded by the governor’s budget, private donations and the colleges themselves, he estimates the program will cost roughly $2,000 per student.

“I would argue it is a very smart investment,” he said. If the program shows strong results, “I think that will help send a really powerful message across the system and the state and help us make the case for more resources, because this costs money,” he said.....

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