Two years after its start, a City University of New York program strongly supported by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and aimed at helping community college students earn degrees as quickly as possible has graduated more than 30% of its original students in just two years. The program is likely to exceed its goal of at least 50% receiving their diplomas in three years, according to a new report.
Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, was established at the direction of Chancellor Matthew Goldstein in January 2007 with funding and other support from the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO). ASAP has been identified by Mayor Bloomberg as the centerpiece of his $50 million “Gateway to the Middle Class” community college initiative. CUNY ASAP is one of more than 40 anti-poverty initiatives launched by CEO since 2006. CEO is Mayor Bloomberg’s innovation lab that is testing a new generation of pilot programs that aim to break cycles of intergenerational poverty.
Located at the six CUNY community colleges, the ASAP program includes a mix of financial incentives, program requirements and services – from tuition help and free MetroCards, to mandated full-time study, a consolidated course schedule, and a focus on economically viable careers and future study – to help boost community college student performance and graduation rates.
The ASAP program began in fall 2007 with 1,132 CUNY community college students. Of these, 341 or 30.1% graduated within two years, compared to 11.4% of a group of similarly situated students. An additional 325 ASAP students are currently on track to graduate by August 2010, which would result in a three-year graduation rate of nearly 60%. The three-year graduation rate for the comparison group of students not in ASAP was 24%.
A report titled Early Outcomes for City University of New York Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, prepared by ASAP University Director Donna Linderman, documents these findings. One of CEO’s external evaluators, Metis Associates, provided technical assistance and an independent review of the report.
The ASAP program was designed to address the significant obstacles CUNY community college students face in pursuing full-time study and attaining their degrees. According to the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, 18% of these students support at least one child, most of whom are younger than 5; 33% spend at least six hours weekly providing care to other people; 66% work at least part time, and 75% have annual household income of less than $40,000. While the vast majority of CUNY community college students begin full-time, nearly half cut back to part-time, eroding their graduation chances.
Analysis of six-year CUNY graduation rates shows that for the fall 2002 cohort of first-time, full-time freshmen at the community colleges, only 26% had graduated six years later. For a comparable period, a working paper by the Community College Research Center put the national rate for earning the Associate degree at 16%.
ASAP’s other early successes include indications that as of fall 2009 more than 90% of the two-year graduates planned to transfer to four-year colleges to work towards bachelor’s degrees; and 75% planned to attend a CUNY senior college. ASAP students have cited the program’s financial incentives and comprehensive advisement support as key to their completing their associate degrees in two years.
ASAP’s encouraging outcomes have prompted outside funding for the program. The Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women made a two-year, $190,000 grant to launch the ASAP Transfer Scholarship Program to provide scholarships and targeted advisement for high-performing ASAP students with financial need who matriculated to Baruch, Hunter, Queens or Brooklyn colleges in fall 2009. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust gave a three-year, $3.7 million grant to expand ASAP at Borough of Manhattan and Kingsborough community colleges in spring 2010, to fund a five-year study of the program at both colleges, and to support the Transfer Scholarship Program. Additionally, a recent award from the Robin Hood Foundation through MDRC will allow an expansion at LaGuardia Community College, where students will be recruited for fall 2010.
About the Center for Economic Opportunity
The Center for Economic Opportunity was established by Mayor Bloomberg in 2006 to implement innovative ways to reduce poverty in New York City. Led by Executive Director Veronica M. White, CEO works with City agencies to design and implement evidence-based initiatives aimed at poverty reduction. The Center manages an Innovation Fund through which it provides City agencies annual funding to implement such initiatives and oversees rigorous program monitoring and evaluation of each to determine which are successful in demonstrating results towards reducing poverty and increasing self-sufficiency among New Yorkers.