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Ohio Programs Based on CUNY's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) More Than Double Graduation Rates

December 12, 2018

By MDRC, City University of New York, Lorain Community College and the Ohio Department of Higher Education

Three Ohio community colleges have successfully adapted the City University of New York’s innovative Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), according to findings released today at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio.

Two-year results from a random assignment evaluation conducted by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research firm, show that the Ohio programs boosted semester-to-semester persistence and credit accumulation and more than doubled the graduation rate (from 7.9 percent to 19.1 percent). The magnitude of this graduation effect mirrors the impact achieved in the original CUNY program.

In 2014, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College set out to address their low-income students’ needs by turning to a proven-effective program: the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) developed by the City University of New York (CUNY). ASAP requires students to enroll full time and provides comprehensive financial, academic, and personal support services.

The results from the new study were unveiled at a forum at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio. Ascendium Education Group (formerly The Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation) provided anchor funding for the demonstration and evaluation, supplemented with grants from a group of other higher education philanthropies.

What Is ASAP?

In 2007, The City University of New York, with the support and funding from the New York City Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, launched Accelerated Study in Associate Programs at the then six existing CUNY community colleges to dramatically increase timely graduation. ASAP requires students to attend college full time and provides them with a rich array of supports for three full years, including enhanced advising, block-scheduled first-year courses, cohort course-taking, tutoring, career services, a tuition gap waiver that covers any need between a student’s financial aid and tuition and fees, MetroCards for use on public transportation, and textbook assistance. Based on the success of the program, ASAP has been scaled across CUNY from 1,132 students in 2007 to 25,000 students this academic year.

All three colleges in the Ohio demonstration modeled their programs’ administrative structure and services after CUNY ASAP. While a few program components had to be adjusted to meet the local context, the goal was to come as close to ASAP as possible. Instead of the MetroCards, the three Ohio colleges offer $50 gift cards for use at local gas and grocery store chains. CUNY provided technical assistance to the colleges, and ODHE coordinated the Ohio ASAP Network, which allowed administrators to share lessons across the three colleges.

What Did the Study in Ohio Find?

The Ohio colleges targeted students who were low-income, college-ready or in need of developmental education, degree seeking, willing to attend full time, and in a major where a degree can be completed within three years. Students could be new to the college or could be continuing students with up to 24 credits. The study compares the Ohio demonstration of ASAP with regular services and classes at the colleges. Key findings include:

  • The Ohio schools serve predominantly nontraditional students. Compared with the sample from MDRC’s evaluation of CUNY ASAP, students in Ohio are somewhat older (average age 23.1 compared with 21.5), are more likely to be parents (27.0 percent versus 15.3 percent), and are twice as likely to be working (60.0 percent versus 31.3 percent).
  • The Ohio demonstration of ASAP boosted full-time enrollment, semester-to-semester persistence, and summer enrollment. Students in the programs were more likely to remain enrolled from semester to semester (by more than 9 percentage points in the second through fourth semesters). The effects on full-time enrollment were even larger — 18 percentage points in the first semester and ranging from 11 to 19 percentage points in subsequent semesters. ASAP in Ohio boosted summer enrollment by 24 percentage points in the first summer and 12 percentage points in the second. This suggests that many students who currently enroll part time would enroll full time and in summer sessions with the right set of requirements and supports.
  • The Ohio demonstration of ASAP greatly increased the number of credits earned. The program group earned roughly two additional credits per semester — representing a 37 percent increase in credit accumulation after two years, one of the largest increases on this important indicator of academic progress observed in a rigorous evaluation.
  • The Ohio demonstration of ASAP more than doubled graduation rates after two years. Nineteen percent of the program group have earned a degree or credential, compared with 7.9 percent of the control group. For nearly all graduates, the highest credential earned was an associate’s degree.
  • The annual cost per program participant of the Ohio demonstration of ASAP was $2,331 per year.

“The successful adaptation of the City University of New York’s ASAP program in Ohio is remarkable because it shows that the model can achieve great results in new contexts and with different types of students,” said Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC. “It also speaks to the strength of the original program.”

“I am extremely pleased to see the success of the program at these schools over a two-year span,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey. “It gives students — predominantly nontraditional students — the tools and the confidence to succeed. On a larger scale, it helps Ohio get closer to its attainment goal of having 65 percent of working-age adults with a degree or certificate by 2025, which strengthens our workforce and our economy.”

“At CUNY we have known for a while that ASAP is a powerful model to dramatically improve community college associate degree-seeking student results with the program consistently doubling two- and three-year graduation rates,” said CUNY Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “That’s why we have scaled it up to serve 25,000 associate degree-seeking students a year. With these outstanding results in Ohio, ASAP has proved itself to be a fully-replicable, national model for student success.”

“We’re pleased that MDRC’s evaluation validates both the adaptability of the ASAP strategy and the commitment of our Ohio partners to help more underserved students in their state realize the goal of a postsecondary education,” said Amy Kerwin, Vice President-Education Philanthropy at Ascendium Education Group. “What’s more, the findings hold great promise for scaling the ASAP program.”

The Ohio demonstration of ASAP and MDRC’s evaluation are supported by the Ascendium Education Group, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the ECMC Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation, KnowledgeWorks, the Kresge Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation.

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