MDRC in the News

Ohio Import of NYC Community College Program Passed Rigorous 3-Year Test

The Hechinger Report


“[A] recent study caught my attention because it not only copied a New York City program for community college students in three different Ohio communities but it also studied 1,500 low-income Ohio students for three years to see how many graduated when only half of them received the treatment…”

…A 35 percent graduation rate after three years might seem pitifully low and there’s still much room for improvement. But the 16 percentage point difference in graduation rates between the treated and untreated students is unusually high in rigorous experiments like this where researchers factored in the outcomes of all students who were assigned for treatment but didn’t comply with the program’s rules or even enroll in college at the start. When the original New York program, called the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) was studied at the City University of New York (CUNY), researchers calculated an 18 percentage point difference in graduation rates between treated and untreated students.  The New York researchers believed it to be one of the largest improvements in graduation rates ever posted in a randomized controlled trial in higher education. The Ohio result was statistically similar.

“People thought maybe it was just a New York thing but this study shows you can actually take this and do it somewhere else,” said Colleen Sommo, a senior associate at the research organization MDRC, which conducted the January 2020 evaluation. (The evaluation and the Ohio version of the ASAP program were partly supported by several philanthropies that are also among the many funders of the Hechinger Report: Arnold Ventures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the ECMC Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and the Lumina Foundation.)

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