Ohio Programs Based on CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) Boost Earnings During the Pandemic

Programs Also Substantially Increased Graduation Rates and the Attainment of Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees

Contact: John Hutchins, MDRC, [email protected]

(April 11, 2023) — New study results released today show that three Ohio community colleges that adapted the City University of New York’s innovative Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) increased the earnings of students who had participated in the program by 11 percent during the COVID pandemic.

The programs also increased graduation rates by 50 percent, boosting the attainment of both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. The six-year follow-up study, which employed a random assignment research design, was conducted by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm, with support from Arnold Ventures.

In 2014, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), and Lorain County Community College set out to address their low-income students’ needs by turning to a proven-effective program: Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) developed by the City University of New York (CUNY). ASAP requires students to enroll full time and provides comprehensive financial, academic, and personal support services.

What Is ASAP?

In 2007, the City University of New York, with the support and funding from the New York City Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, launched ASAP at the then six existing CUNY community colleges to dramatically increase timely graduation. ASAP requires students to attend college full time and provides them with a rich array of support services for three full years, including enhanced advising, first-year courses reserved for program students, cohort course-taking, tutoring, career services, a tuition waiver to cover any gap between a student’s financial aid and tuition and fees, MetroCards for use on public transportation, and textbook assistance. Based on the success of the program, ASAP has been expanded across CUNY from 1,132 students in 2007 to 25,000 students annually since 2019. Additionally, ASAP has been replicated at eight institutions across five additional states beyond Ohio.

All three colleges in the Ohio demonstration modeled their programs’ administrative structure and services on CUNY ASAP. While a few program components had to be adjusted to meet the local context, the goal was to come as close to ASAP as possible. Instead of the MetroCards, the three Ohio colleges offer $50 gift cards for use at local gas and grocery store chains. CUNY provided technical assistance to the colleges, and the Ohio Department of Higher Education coordinated the Ohio ASAP Network, which allowed administrators to share lessons across the three colleges.

What Did the Study in Ohio Find?

The Ohio colleges targeted students who were from low-income families, willing to attend full time, and in majors where degrees could be completed within three years. Students could be new to college or could be continuing students with up to 24 credits. The study compares the Ohio demonstration of ASAP with regular services and classes at the colleges.

Key findings after six years include:

  • The Ohio programs boosted the earnings of program participants, even during the pandemic. In the sixth year of follow-up, which occurred during the pandemic, program participants’ average earnings (across full-time and part-time workers, as well as nonworkers) were $19,573, an 11 percent increase over the control group earnings of $17,625. Because program and control group employment rates were the same, the effect on earnings is likely the result of program participants working in higher-paying jobs.
  • The Ohio programs increased graduation rates by 50 percent. After six years, 44 percent of program group students had earned a degree of any kind, compared with 29 percent of the control group—a more than 50 percent increase, which is among the largest increases seen in rigorous evaluations of student success programs.
  • The Ohio programs increased the completion of both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Forty-two percent of the program group had earned an associate’s degree compared with 26 percent of the control group. Fourteen percent of the program group earned a bachelor’s degree compared with 9 percent of the control group.

“The promising findings from ASAP in Ohio represent an important contribution to the growing body of evidence on comprehensive approaches to improve the educational—and now economic—outcomes of students from low-income backgrounds,” said MDRC President Virginia Knox. “MDRC will continue to collect long-term academic and labor market data, and future reports will discuss research findings after eight and ten years.”

"These new findings show that the ASAP model continues to provide Ohio students with the support needed to prepare for a successful future," said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner. 

“This new study further shows the effectiveness of the ASAP model and our decision to raise funds to continue it at Cincinnati State as the CState Accelerate program,” said Dr. Monica Posey, President of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. “We now have validated evidence for something we've long known—students who receive the support they need are far more likely to graduate, and that is a huge benefit for employers and our state. It should be the model used to transform public policy and funding.”

“It is not surprising that students in the Ohio programs attained successful outcomes, outperforming their peers,” said Miria Batig, Associate Dean of Health Careers and Sciences and former Program Director, Cuyahoga Community College. “Student participants at Tri-C often voiced the significance of the wrap-around services and personal support they received; it was the difference between dropping out or finishing their educational goals. And the earnings data demonstrate the programs’ continued impact on the community and workforce needs of the area.”

“These results make very clear that colleges can dramatically improve the outcomes of students on their campuses,” said Kelly McManus, Vice President of Higher Education at Arnold Ventures. “As Congress and the Department of Education continue to consider much-needed investments in evidence-based student success programs, this latest research represents a significant addition to our shared knowledge about how to ensure more students graduate with high-value credentials—and adds to the urgency of adopting these practices widely today.”

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This report was supported by Arnold Ventures. The original Ohio demonstration of ASAP and MDRC’s evaluation were supported by Ascendium Education Group, Arnold Ventures, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ECMC Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation, KnowledgeWorks, The Kresge Foundation, and Lumina Foundation.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education is a Cabinet-level agency for the Governor of the State of Ohio that oversees higher education for the state. The agency’s main responsibilities include authorizing and approving new degree programs, managing state-funded financial aid programs, and developing and advocating policies to maximize higher education’s contributions to the state and its citizens.

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, a transformative engine of social mobility that is a critical component of the lifeblood of New York City. Founded in 1847 as the nation’s first free public institution of higher education, CUNY today has seven community colleges11 senior colleges and seven graduate or professional institutions spread across New York City’s five boroughs, serving 275,000 students and awarding 55,000 degrees each year.

MDRC is committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation—from reducing poverty and bolstering economic self-sufficiency to improving public education and college graduation rates. MDRC designs promising new interventions, evaluates existing programs using the highest research standards, and provides technical assistance to build better programs and deliver effective interventions at scale.