Helping students to graduate ASAP

A study published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics presents the results from a randomised controlled trial of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative on students’ academic progress and success. This latest paper considers the long-term impact of the programme (we covered the original study previously in Best Evidence in Brief).

The CUNY ASAP programme is a comprehensive three-year programme aimed at helping more students to graduate from community college more quickly than they otherwise would (in the US, community colleges provide higher education from the age of 18). It aims to remove the barriers to academic success often faced by low-income students and comprises the following components:

  • Students are required to attend college full time, take remedial courses early, and graduate in three years.
  • Each student is provided with a dedicated ASAP advisor.
  • Students receive a tuition waiver covering the difference between the financial aid provided and the cost of tuition and fees. They are also provided with free passes for public transport and free use of textbooks.
  • Students can enrol in courses with other ASAP students in convenient schedules.

The results of the study showed that ASAP had positive impacts on full-time enrolment and credit accumulation. It had an estimated 18 percentage point effect on three-year graduation rates, increased six-year graduation rates by an estimated 10 percentage points, and helped students to graduate more quickly than students in the control group.

Source: Supporting community college students from start to degree completion: Long-term evidence from a randomized trial of CUNY’s ASAP” (July 2019), American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 11 (3).

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.