While the U.S. has made strides in increasing college access among low-income students, college completion has remained low. Graduation rates are particularly stagnant among our nation’s community colleges, which enroll a large number of low-income and nontraditional college students. For example, only 20 percent of full-time, first-time degree-seeking students at public two-year colleges earn a degree within three years of enrollment. Evidence-based strategies to improve graduation rates are greatly needed as the nation has made increasing college completion a priority.
To facilitate timely degree completion, the City University of New York (CUNY) launched Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), a comprehensive program that provides students with up to three years of financial, academic, and student support services. MDRC rigorously evaluated ASAP using a randomized controlled trial and found that ASAP almost doubled graduation rates, from 22 percent to 40 percent, after three years. After six years, ASAP both continued to increase graduation rates and enabled some students to earn their degrees faster than they would have otherwise.
Due to these unprecedented effects, MDRC and CUNY partnered to launch the ASAP Ohio Demonstration, an effort to determine whether CUNY ASAP could be successfully implemented at community colleges in Ohio. Three Ohio community colleges — Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College — operated their own programs based on the CUNY ASAP model. Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation provided anchor funding for the project, and the colleges received technical assistance from CUNY, as well as operational support from MDRC and the Ohio Department of Higher Education. MDRC conducted an implementation and random assignment evaluation of the effort, which demonstrated that ASAP in Ohio nearly doubled three-year graduation rates and led to an increase in transfers to four-year colleges, mirroring the impacts achieved in the original CUNY program. Additionally, the Ohio programs had positive effects for various types of students, including those who entered with and without developmental education requirements, suggesting that the model’s comprehensive support can be implemented in various settings and help students with different needs.
With funding from Arnold Ventures, MDRC is conducting long-term follow-up to examine impacts on academic outcomes through eight years and labor market outcomes through 10 years. The labor market impacts will be the first experimental estimates of the effects of the ASAP model on employment and earnings.
In 2017, MDRC was invited to evaluate another replication of CUNY’s ASAP, this time at Westchester Community College in New York state. This study is supported by Arnold Ventures.
CUNY ASAP’s technical assistance team partners directly with institutions committed to replicating the ASAP model with a high level of fidelity. Please contact CUNY directly for more information at CUNYASAPR[email protected].