Community colleges in the United States, which serve a disproportionate number of students from low-income backgrounds, can provide a valuable pathway toward well-paying careers. However, graduation rates at community colleges are very low—among first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students who enter public two-year schools, only 29 percent graduate within three years. Seeking to address this challenge, three community colleges in Ohio implemented a new comprehensive program model that was based closely on the City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) proven Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). In 2015, the three Ohio colleges began implementing their programs and experienced similar successes as CUNY; the first phase of MDRC’s study found large impacts on graduation rates and transfer to four-year institutions after three years.
This brief extends the follow-up period for the Ohio programs to six years and provides earnings and employment impacts for the first time. After six years, the program continued to have an impact on graduation: 44 percent of students in the program group earned a degree, compared with 29 percent in the control group. Notably, these improvements in academic achievement have led to increased earnings, on average, for the students in the program group. In Year 6, students in the program group earned an additional $1,948 over the control group average of $17,626, an increase of 11 percent. These findings represent a new and important contribution to the growing body of evidence on comprehensive approaches (especially those modeled after CUNY ASAP) to improve the educational—and now economic—outcomes of students from low-income backgrounds. Future briefs will extend the follow-up period for academic outcomes to eight years and labor market outcomes to ten years.