Boosting graduation rates ASAP

MDRC has released a randomised assignment study of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Program (ASAP).

ASAP is a three-year-long programme for students who need remedial courses to complete community college requirements. In the US, community colleges provide higher education from the age of 18, awarding certificates, diplomas, and associate’s degrees, but not bachelor’s degrees. Community college students who need remedial courses have low graduation rates, but the results of this study showed that students who participated in ASAP were almost twice as likely to graduate as students in the control group (who did not participate in ASAP). The results of the study form the largest finding of any community college reform in MDRC’s history.

A total of 896 community college students at three of CUNY’s seven campuses participated in the study – 451 received ASAP and 445 received the usual college services. Students were matched on low-income, the need for one or two remedial courses, credits earned, residency, willingness to attend college full time, minimum GPA (Grade Point Average), and major subject choice.

ASAP components included:

  • Students were required to attend college full time, take remedial courses early, and graduate in three years.
  • Students were provided with tutors specific to ASAP.
  • Students received a tuition waiver covering the difference between the financial aid provided and the cost of tuition and fees.

ASAP’s total cost per student was initially $14,000 more than for students who used the usual college services. But MDRC calculated that at the third-year point, the cost of earning a degree was lower for ASAP students than for control. This was because so many more students graduated through ASAP than did students who used the usual college services.
ASAP is being implemented in six of CUNY’s seven colleges.

Source: Doubling Graduation Rates: Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students (2015), MDRC.

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