The study took place at four of the eight City University of New York (CUNY) campuses that offer CUNY Start: Borough of Manhattan Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, and Queensborough Community College. CUNY Start was housed in each college’s Continuing Education division. All of these colleges offered associate's degree programs.
On average, just under half (48%) were 19 years old or younger, nearly half (43.7%) were Hispanic, and just under one-third (32%) were African American. A small minority (7%) were White, and over half (56%) spoke English as a native language (22% had Spanish as their native language, and 22% had another language besides Spanish or English as their native language). Over one-third (35%) were the first in their family to attend college, and nearly half (49%) were employed at baseline. Over half (51%) required three developmental subject areas, but over half (59%) hoped to achieve a bachelor's degree, and over one-quarter hoped to achieve a postgraduate or professional degree.
CUNY Start was a one-semester program for students assessed as needing remediation; it had both a full-time and part-time version. The full-time version was open to students who needed remediation in math and reading or writing (or in all three subjects), while the part-time version was also open to students who needed remediation in only one subject. CUNY Start provided up to 26.5 hours of intensive instruction following a prescribed approach in math, reading, and writing; it also provided advising, tutoring, and a weekly college skills seminar. CUNY Start's math instructional approach was student-centered, rather than lecture-centered, and integrated arithmetic and algebra and encouraged conceptual understanding, real-world learning, and the building of academic skills. CUNY Start's instructional approach to reading and writing was less substantively different than the standard developmental courses in these areas but integrates the two subjects to allow students to move more quickly through their developmental requirements. Students paid $75 to participate in CUNY Start; the cost was not covered by financial aid and therefore, does not require students to use one of their semesters of federal financial aid eligibility. The program's goal was to prepare students for college-level courses while providing all of the developmental education they need in one semester. After 12 weeks of CUNY Start, students took exit tests in the subject areas for which they needed remediation; if they passed, they were eligible to take college-level courses the next semester; if students did not pass, they received three to six additional weeks of CUNY Start instruction before being reassessed.
The comparison condition was business as usual. The comparison condition cost $2,400, but students could use financial aid towards the cost. Students could still take up to 3 semesters of developmental math, reading and writing (if needed), but they were also able to enroll in college-level courses right away. Their math, reading, and writing courses were typically not taught in an integrated way, and math classes mostly tended to be lecture-based. However, the developmental reading and writing were mostly student-centered. The College Success seminar was not mandatory, but it was available to students in the comparison group. Students had advisors, but their advisors had a much heavier student load than those involved in CUNY Start. About one-third of non-CUNY Start students received tutoring.
Support for implementation
There were two main supports for implementation: (1) CUNY Start was housed in Continuing Education and managed centrally (not at each campus), while the other programs' administration is in Academic Affairs and managed within the academic departments; and (2) Many of the CUNY Start instructors participated in a semester-long apprenticeship prior to starting and continuing professional development, while most of the general instructors did not participate in additional training before teaching a course and reported fewer hours of professional development than their CUNY Start counterparts. To be hired as a CUNY Start instructor, the individual had to demonstrate both content knowledge and openness to the curriculum and pedagogy of CUNY Start.