CUNY AND Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs Announce That Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) at Community Colleges Saves Nearly $6,500 per Graduate

October 25, 2012 | The University

Innovative program more than doubles graduation rate of comparison groups

City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs today announced independent findings that City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) saves almost $6,500 per graduate, even though the initiative spends more on advisement, career services and faculty and academic support.

With 55 percent of the students in the program graduating – compared to 24 percent in a comparison group at the same CUNY community colleges – CUNY’s innovative approach to speeding community college students toward graduation is more effective and costs less per graduate than the traditional path toward an associate degree, according to an independent study by Professor Henry Levin of Columbia University’s Teachers College. The Chancellor also announced plans to almost double the program.

“Given ASAP’s effectiveness in helping students reach their academic goals, we plan to expand the initiative from the current 2,312 participants to more than 4,000 by fall 2014,” Chancellor Goldstein said. “We instinctively felt that ASAP would be worth the investment. Having Dr. Levin – a respected scholar –

confirm and quantify that is a most encouraging affirmation.”

“CUNY ASAP is one of the most worthwhile programs we have implemented under the city’s larger anti-poverty efforts,” Deputy Mayor Gibbs said. “Five years later, this report shows that not only is the program having a large impact on graduation rates, but it also is much more cost-effective than the alternative.”

According to Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs and Dean of the School of Professional Studies John Mogulescu, “One of the most gratifying aspects of the ASAP program is that it has been successful at all six of our partner community colleges. This is due to the extraordinary work of our campus ASAP staff and the tremendous support and leadership of our community college presidents.”

As part of ASAP – which also was a blueprint for many aspects of CUNY’s New Community College, which opened this semester – students enroll full time; immediately address any developmental (remedial) education needs; take courses in continuing cohorts with consolidated schedules, which encourages development of supportive peer networks; receive intrusive advisement (meaning that advisors don’t wait to be asked for advice); take a college-success seminar; and have access to intensive tutoring services.

CUNY ASAP is funded by the Center for Economic Opportunity, which Mayor Bloomberg founded in 2006 to seek innovative ways to reduce poverty. It is one of CEO’s most successful programs to date. A partner with CUNY since ASAP began in 2007, CEO has provided assistance with implementation and evaluation. Most recently, CEO funded the cost-benefit research and outreach to help support CUNY’s plans for scaling up the program.

“CUNY ASAP has been tremendously successful in getting students to graduate within three years,” said CEO Executive Director Kristin Morse. “The cost-effectiveness report shows that the investment has been well worth the effort and that ASAP actually saves money by significantly increasing the number of graduates.”

When the University began ASAP, it set a bold goal of graduating at least half of its initial students within three years. That represented a doubling of the existing completion rate for similar CUNY community college students and three times the national urban community college rate. ASAP did even better. Three years after its start, 55 percent of the first cohort had graduated, compared to 24 percent in a comparison group at the same CUNY community colleges, according to CUNY’s rigorous internal evaluation.

In the following years, as additional cohorts of students have gone through the program, CUNY found that:

  • Remedial students graduate from ASAP at rates similar to those who start community college with proficient skills. After three years, 55 percent of both types of ASAP students earn degrees, compared to 20 percent of non-ASAP students with remedial needs and 25 percent of proficient non-ASAP students.
  • Students from underrepresented groups appear to benefit more from ASAP than other students.
  • Sixty-three percent of students graduate, transfer to a baccalaureate program or both three years after starting ASAP, compared to 44 percent of a comparison group.
  • More importantly, CUNY found, ASAP students graduate at more that double the rates of non-ASAP students, with increases in graduation rates after three years of at least 30 percent.

The independent analysis of ASAP’s performance is the first installment of a two-part cost-benefit study by the Columbia Teachers College team led by Dr. Levin, the William Heard Kilpatrick professor of economics and education and director of the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education. The second part, expected to be completed later this fall, will examine the benefits of timely graduation for both the individual and society.

Levin predicts that as CUNY expands the program, “the added cost of ASAP services is more than compensated for by a higher production of degrees. The larger investment will result in a lower cost per degree and large aggregated savings of degree production for CUNY community colleges … What is also noteworthy is the likelihood that ASAP is more likely to succeed with less advantaged students rather than experiencing a high proportion” of dropouts among those who quickly see that they are not likely to complete their studies.

Looking ahead to the study’s forthcoming second part, Levin writes that the benefits of increasing graduation rates will ripple though society. “ASAP should not be considered only as an added cost, but also as an investment in which there may be a considerable payoff or social return. Graduates experience higher employment and income than non-graduates, as well as greater social status and civic activity. Additional graduates also improve the competitiveness of the labor force and return the investment to the taxpayer in the form of higher tax revenues and lower costs for social services, including public health, criminal justice, and public assistance.”

The report concludes: “ASAP is so much more effective in producing additional graduates in a timely fashion and … the cost per graduate for ASAP is comparable to or less than that of the traditional approach. ASAP can increase considerably the number of CUNY community college graduates while actually reducing costs.”

Joining Levin in writing the report was co-author Emma Garcia, a doctoral candidate in the economics and education program in Teachers College’s Department of Educational Policy and Social Analysis and a research assistant in the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education. Master’s student James Morgan assisted them. CUNY’s Offices of Academic Affairs and Institutional Research and Assessment commissioned the Teachers College study. The report is available at both www.cuny.edu/asap and www.nyc.gov/ceo.  –

ASAP also shined in a separate study in which 900 students were randomly assigned to the program, according to preliminary results released in June. MDRC, a leading public policy research organization, found that ASAP increases full-time enrollment, credits earned, completion of developmental coursework and first- to second-semester retention. ASAP’s initial effects are larger than those of most community college programs that MDRC has studied. The MDRC preliminary report is at http://www.mdrc.org/publications/637/overview.html.

ASAP cost $6.5 million a year through FY 2010 and then increased to $6.8 million in FY 2011. The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity provided additional funds to include an evening/weekend ASAP program at Borough of Manhattan Community College. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Robin Hood Foundation also supported ASAP.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847 as The Free Academy, the University has 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves over 269,000 degree-credit students and 269,808 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. More than 1 million visitors and 2 million page views are served each month by www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.