ASAP Graduates

CUNY plans to expand program that has led to unprecedented increases in graduation at Bronx Community College. Goal is for 50 percent completion rate at institution that serves largely minority, low-income population.

October 16, 2015
Commencement at Bronx Community College in 2013

The City University of New York will today announce a major expansion of a program that has had remarkable success at improving graduation rates of community college students. CUNY plans to enroll all new full-time students at Bronx Community College in the program, with a goal of having a 50 percent three-year graduation rate.

There are many efforts around the country showing progress at improving community colleges' graduation rates. But CUNY's announcement today -- including a goal of applying one of the most promising of these programs to an entire college -- represents an effort to take such a program and bring it to scale, something that has not generally been attempted.

The program, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, has many fans in New York State and also in Washington, D.C., where President Obama has praised it. The program provides students with much more academic and financial support than most community college students receive: free tuition, textbooks and public transportation, and regular required contact with an adviser who has a relatively small caseload.

All of that, of course, costs money. And the CUNY expansion that aims to increase the number of students in ASAP from 4,000 today to more than 25,000 by 2018 has a significant price tag -- New York City is providing $42 million for the program's expansion.

The impact such an expansion could have on the number of people earning associate degrees from CUNY could be huge. Across CUNY, about 17 percent of those who enter associate degree programs earn one within three years. But for those who enroll in ASAP, the rate jumps to 57 percent -- a figure that is off the charts in terms of community college graduation rates.

All six CUNY community colleges will receive support to expand their ASAP programs, as will three senior colleges that offer associate degrees: New York City College of Technology, College of Staten Island and Medgar Evers College.

But the most dramatic change is planned for Bronx Community College, where the general three-year graduation rate is 11 percent, but the ASAP participants' graduation rate is 61 percent.

ASAP is only for full-time students, and about two-thirds of Bronx students attend full time. Part-timers will still enroll at the college, but CUNY officials hope that they will be attracted to the full-time program. Currently, 11 percent of full-time students at the college are in ASAP, a share that could go to 100 percent among full-timers during the expansion.

While the anticipated gains from ASAP, both at Bronx and across CUNY, are extremely ambitious, outside studies have verified the gains and suggested that the program could be expanded. The studies have found that it is a combination of policies (advising, full-time enrollment) and dollars (waiving tuition and fees) that appear to be making the difference for many students.

Chancellor James B. Milliken will announce the new effort today in a keynote address to the Association of Community College Trustees Leadership Congress, in San Diego.

In his address, Milliken will argue that the United States faces a “crisis in community college degree attainment” that requires dramatic changes in current policy. “As educators, it is not enough for us to provide just an opportunity for advancement. We have to take responsibility for equipping our students with the tools for seizing that opportunity and be held accountable when they do not,” he plans to say, according to prepared remarks.

CUNY is also today announcing a major expansion of CUNY Start, which provides extra support to those needing remedial education before they take on college-level work. CUNY start provides 15 to 18 weeks of intensive preparation in academic subjects. The expansion being announced today will double, to 3,900, the number of students enrolled.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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