CUNY Expands Its Promising ‘ACE’ Program to Lehman College in Partnership with Robin Hood Foundation

The City University of New York is expanding its promising Accelerate, Complete and Engage (ACE) program to Lehman College, thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the Robin Hood Foundation. ACE, launched at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Fall 2015, also with initial seed funding from Robin Hood, aims to double four-year baccalaureate graduation rates.

The program at Lehman will begin in Fall 2019 and serve 125 first-time, full-time freshmen, and 125 full-time transfer students who enter with an associate degree. CUNY aims to further expand ACE to its other senior colleges.

“With the generous support of Robin Hood, more CUNY students will have the benefit of an innovative program of proven efficacy that will enable them to finish their bachelor’s degrees in four years,” said Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “The ACE program, based on CUNY’s successful ASAP program that has more than doubled timely graduation rates in associate degree programs, is another example of CUNY’s commitment to its students’ success and its impact in public higher education.”

ACE is modeled on CUNY’s successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), launched in 2007 to help students complete associate degrees as quickly as possible. Both programs help mitigate obstacles that often prevent a student from graduating in a timely manner, if at all, by providing students with academic, social and financial supports.

ASAP was conceived and launched with the goal of helping students obtain an associate degree in no more than three years and will serve 25,000 this year, thanks to support from the State and City of New York. ACE was conceived to support baccalaureate students in the same manner, helping them graduate in no more than five years. The ASAP three-year graduation rate of 53 percent is more than three times higher than the national urban community college three-year graduation rate of 16 percent, and more than double that of similar CUNY associate degree-seeking students at 25 percent. The expectation is that ACE’s trajectory of impact and eventual systemwide scaling will follow that of ASAP.

Participating students receive a set of financial resources and structured supports to ensure timely degree completion: tuition waivers to close any gap after need-based financial aid; free unlimited monthly MetroCards to defray commuting expenses; textbook assistance; early registration options to ensure their enrollment in the courses they need to fulfill requirements; and summer and winter course-taking opportunities. Students work with an assigned personal adviser and a career specialist, who monitor and guide their progress from freshman year through graduation. They also receive assistance finding internships and applying for research opportunities and scholarships.

“Half of the students that attend Lehman come from families that make less than $30,000 a year. These students don’t have access to the ‘extras’ that so many people take for granted, the hidden advantages that make succeeding in college easier,” said Lehman College President José Luis Cruz. “But an education is the way to upward mobility for these students, so we’re thrilled that Robin Hood is making it possible for more students to succeed.”

The ACE program’s great promise to raise four-year bachelor’s graduation rates is already visible. CUNY evaluation data show that ACE students have stronger retention and degree momentum rates than a matched comparison group of similar students. As of Fall 2018, 70% of the ACE students who entered John Jay in Fall 2015 were on track to graduate at the end of this year, compared with 37% of similar non-ACE students, a phenomenal interim result. Additionally, CUNY evaluation data that ACE participation benefits all subgroups of students, with noticeable narrowing of achievement gaps by ethnicity and race.

The program requires students to pursue a major from an approved list of ACE majors; enroll in at least 15 credits each semester; attend one ACE seminar per month; meet at least once per month with an ACE academic adviser; participate in academic support activities such as math study groups and writing workshops; and complete a series of career-development activities.

ACE is beginning its fourth year at John Jay College and receives funding through Robin Hood, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women.“We were proud partners with CUNY on its ASAP program, a game changer for helping thousands of New Yorkers to find sustainable pathways out of poverty for themselves and their families,” said Wes Moore, C.E.O. of Robin Hood. “Robin Hood is thrilled to once again partner with CUNY to make a similar impact with ACE, creating high-impact innovation that benefits New York City’s residents, neighborhoods, and its future.”

Additional funding from Robin Hood is essential to the expansion of ACE to Lehman College. Robin Hood is New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization, providing nonprofits with financial, material and managerial support. Robin Hood supports schools, food pantries, homeless shelters, health care facilities and workforce training centers.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 24 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields.  The University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.