The City University of New York (CUNY), with the support of the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, started the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) to provide students with up to three years of financial and academic support, as well as other support services, to address barriers to college graduation. A central program goal is to help student graduate with an Associate’s Degree within three years. A previous evaluation CUNY ASAP found that the program led to a large and statistically significant increase in graduation rates, and the current evaluation investigates whether the program works well in another context: Ohio. To answer this question, a partnership of MDRC, CUNY, and the Ohio Department of Education was formed to evaluate the ASAP model at three community colleges in the state. The evaluation was conducted at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (C-State) which serves approximately 8,000 students; Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) which serves approximately 23,000 students, and Lorain County Community College (Lorain-CC) which serves about 11,000 students. Tri-C and C-State are located in Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively, while Loraine-CC is in a smaller city, Elyria, located in an outlier county of the Cleveland metropolitan area. Although the colleges vary in size, they are typical of the characteristics of the students in most other community colleges in the state. For example, most students are age 25 or older, attend part-time, and approximately one-third of students across these schools receive Pell grants.
Students in the sample had to be eligible for Pell Grants. The average age of study participants was 23.2 years. A majority had earned a high school diploma (87.2%), planned to enroll in college as full-time students (90.7%), had developmental education requirements entering the program (74.3%), and were women (64.0%). A majority of study participants were currently employed (59.9%) and living with parents (57.8%). Less than half were white (45.8%), over one-third were black (34.8%), and about one-third were the first person in their family to attend college (33.9%). Less than 10% of the students in the sample lived in a home where a language other than English was spoken regularly in the home (8.6%).
The Ohio Programs model was designed to closely follow the CUNY ASAP to address multiple potential barriers to students completing community college within three years. The model consists of five components: (1) student support through advising, tutoring, and career services; (2) financial support through tuition waivers, monthly incentives, and textbook vouchers; (3) course enrollment support through blocked courses, and consolidated schedules, and a first-year seminar; (4) requirements and messages in students are required to be enrolled in college full-time, take developmental courses early, and graduate within three years, and (5) management and staffing in which program management and dedicated staff support student holistically throughout the three years.
Students in the comparison group received typical services offered at one of the three community colleges participating in the evaluation. The intensity and individualized attention of these services were less than that which the intervention group received.
Support for implementation
C-State, Tri-C, and Lorain-CC received support from CUNY and MDRC in an effort to adopt and develop their programs. CUNY led a workshop for participating colleges to help them develop their action plans for implementation during the planning phase. In addition, CUNY provided ongoing technical assistance throughout the implementation phase. MDRC provided operational support during the pilot phase of the program and developed a management system to collect and manage participant data.