CUNY AND NYC Center for Economic Opportunity: Community College ASAP Program Produces $46 Million Higher Payoff for Taxpayers Per 1,000 Students Than Traditional Approach

Press Contact: Michael Arena (CUNY) – (212) 664-9049
Corey Chambliss (CEO ) – (212) 788-0030

The City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and NYC Center for Economic Opportunity Executive Director Kristin Morse today announced that an independent analysis of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) found that the program generates $46 million more in taxpayer benefits than a similar comparison group for every 1,000 students enrolled, while graduating students at a lower overall cost per participant. ASAP is designed to accelerate degree completion within three years at community colleges, and the report focused on the program’s return on investment to both taxpayers and students. To date, ASAP participants have completed their degrees faster, with 55% graduating after three years—significantly higher than average. College graduates have increased earnings, higher rates of employment, and improved options for further education than non-graduates. The report found that taxpayers over the long term benefit from higher tax revenues from higher employment as well as reduced need for public service, identifying a return of between $3 and $4 for every dollar of public investment. Findings also identified a significant return on investment for students even with the program’s requirement of full-time enrollment. The study was conducted by a research team at Columbia University Teacher’s College led by Dr. Henry M. Levin, the William Heard Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education and Director of the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education. The full report can be read here.

“It’s gratifying to see that CUNY’s research-based approach to supporting our students in their quest for an associate degree has proven itself not only in the lives of participating students, but also in the crucible of Dr. Levin’s analysis,” said CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. “With such impressive results, I expect that CUNY will expand ASAP even further in the coming years. I also hope that other community colleges will consider what we’ve developed, because our model could benefit systems nationwide.”

“This cost-benefit study changes the conversation from ‘Community colleges can’t afford this more effective approach’ to ‘We can’t afford not to offer ASAP to more students in New York and beyond,’” said Kristin Morse, executive director of the mayor’s New York City Center for Economic Opportunity. “A college degree is the surest path out of poverty.”

ASAP provides extensive support to help low-income students complete associate’s degrees in a timely manner. Launched in 2007 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, CEO and CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, ASAP is designed to help community college students earn their degrees as quickly as possible, with a goal of graduating at least 50 percent of students within three years – a rate more than three times the national average for urban community colleges. To date, ASAP has exceeded that goal, with 55 percent of students in the program graduating within three years compared to 24 percent of students in a comparison group at the same CUNY community colleges.

With a program model designed by CUNY and CEO in 2007, ASAP provides comprehensive resources and services that remove barriers to full-time study, build student resiliency, and support timely degree completion. Key program features include a consolidated block schedule, cohorts by major, small class size, required full-time study, winter and summer courses, and mandatory advisement, academic support, and career development services. Financial incentives include tuition waivers for eligible students, free textbooks, and monthly MetroCards for all students. As of the 2012-13 academic year, there were 2,200 students enrolled in ASAP at all six of CUNY’s community colleges. The University plans to expand the program’s enrollment to more than 4,000 by fall 2014.

The report found that the total net benefits associated with an initial enrollment of 1,000 ASAP students is about $46 million higher than that of a comparison group. For each taxpayer dollar of investment in ASAP, the return was between three and four dollars. For each dollar of investment by students, the return included increased earnings and employment, and improved options for further education, even when including the earnings that ASAP students forego by enrolling in the program full-time rather than potentially joining the workforce. ASAP has a lower overall cost per graduate, as confirmed by the results of a previous study by Levin. The lower cost per graduate coupled with significant taxpayer and individual benefits make ASAP “a very productive public investment with a high monetary return”.

Among the benefits to taxpayers are higher tax revenues and lower demand for spending on public health, criminal justice and public assistance. The report finds that “all constituencies receive benefits that exceed their cost contributions to the investment.”
In 2009 more than 7.5 million students were attending community colleges nationwide, but only about 22 percent completed an associate’s degree within three years. Completion rates were even lower in urban institutions; according to an analysis by the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, only 16 percent of students at urban community colleges graduate within three years.

The NYC Center for Economic Opportunity fights the cycle of poverty in New York City through innovative programs that build human capital and improve financial security. Launched by Mayor Bloomberg in 2006, CEO works with both City agencies and the federal government to implement successful anti-poverty initiatives in New York and partner cities across the United States. Located in the Office of the Mayor, among CEO’s greatest successes have been the Office of Financial Empowerment, SaveUSA, CUNY ASAP, Jobs-Plus, and a more accurate statistical measure of poverty. Several CEO initiatives have been incorporated into the Young Men’s Initiative, a comprehensive and expansive program designed to address disparities between young African-American and Latino men and their peers. CEO oversees rigorous evaluations of each program to determine their effectiveness in reducing poverty, encouraging savings, and empowering low income workers to advance in their careers. Follow CEO on Twitter at @NYCOpportunity, or visit the NYC Opportunity page on Facebook.

About The City University of New York:
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University is comprised of 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY 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 more than 269,000 degree credit students and 218,083 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. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via, the University’s website.

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