MDRC in the News

Worried About Enrollment and Judged on Success, Some Colleges Boost Support

The Hechinger Report


The monotony of working retail had finally gotten to Amalia Lewis-Miller by 2015, when she decided to go to college. After five years of clocking in at Home Depot, she was 27 and earning $12 an hour. She had worked at Target before that and at one store or another since high school.

“I realized that retail wasn’t for me,” she said. “I couldn’t think of doing it for 20 years”…..

…..Her experience was even luckier than Lewis-Miller could imagine. At a time when federal, state and institutional policies are backing away from helping low-income, first-generation and ethnic and racial minority students, a few colleges are spending significant amounts of time and money on providing such help, using a model piloted by City University of New York, or CUNY…..

…..Ohio is one of 35 states with so-called performance funding that judge colleges on their graduation rates; half of the money allocated to community colleges in Ohio is tied to the percentage of students who graduate…..

…..Around the time that colleges like these were casting around for ways to solve their problems, researchers were touting the results of an experiment begun in 2007 at CUNY. It had launched a model called Accelerated Study in Associate Programs — ASAP — which provided free tuition, financial help with books, intensive counseling and even subway passes. Forty percent of the students in the program graduated within three years, almost double the previous rate of 22 percent…..

…..“The reason it’s expanding to places like Ohio, New York and California is because of its success,” said Mike Weiss, who, as senior researcher at MDRC, a research organization, has overseen studies of ASAP. “But the reason it’s not expanding more is because it’s expensive.”

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