MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, embarked on an external evaluation of CUNY ASAP in 2010. MDRC used a random assignment design in which students were randomly assigned to either the program group or the control group. Students in the program group were offered a spot in ASAP whereas students in the control group were not offered a spot in ASAP. This type of design ensures that students in both groups are similar across observable and unobservable characteristics and allows MDRC to compare the outcomes of ASAP students to similar students who did not participate. The random assignment design ensures that differences in outcomes are a direct result of the program and cannot be explained by preexisting differences between students in terms of background, motivation, or other factors.

The MDRC study includes a sample of 900 students at three colleges (BMCC, Kingsborough, and LaGuardia) who entered with developmental education needs in spring 2010 and fall 2010. In February 2015, MDRC released its three-year findings report, confirming and building on what ASAP has found in its own internal evaluation. The MDRC report shows that, in comparison to control group students, participants in ASAP had nearly double the three-year graduation rate, as well as increased full-time enrollment, credits earned, completion of developmental coursework, and enrollment in all semesters, especially winter and summer sessions.

MDRC researchers state: “ASAP’s effects are the largest MDRC has found in any of its evaluations of community college reforms…. The ASAP model offers a highly promising strategy to markedly accelerate students’ progress, increase graduation rates, and build human capital among educationally and economically disadvantaged populations.”

MDRC Report: Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students- Executive Summary [pdf]

MDRC Report: Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students- Full Report [pdf]

To access the preliminary and interim reports from this study, visit the MDRC website:

ASAP has also been the subject of two-part cost-benefit study led by Dr. Henry M. Levin and a research team from the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education (CBCSE) at Teachers College, Columbia University. In September 2012, Dr. Levin’s cost-effectiveness report revealed that the average cost per three-year ASAP graduate is lower than comparison group graduates. Part two of Dr. Levin’s study was released in May 2013. This benefit-cost analysis found that an investment in ASAP has very large financial returns for both the taxpayer and the ASAP student due to increased lifetime earnings and tax revenues and reduced costs of spending on public health, criminal justice, and public assistance.

*NEW* Levin, H. M., & García, E. (2017). Accelerating Community College Graduation Rates: A Benefit–Cost Analysis. The Journal of Higher Education, 1–27. Click here to access article on JHE website: here.

Cost-Effectiveness Report [pdf]

Benefit-Cost Report [pdf]