Building Better Programs

MDRC: Doubling Graduation Rates

Community colleges offer a pathway to the middle class for low-income individuals. Although access to college has expanded, graduation rates at community colleges remain low, especially for students who need developmental (remedial) courses to build their math, reading, or writing skills. Many reforms have been found to help students in the short term, but few have substantially boosted college completion. The City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), launched in 2007 with funding from the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, is an uncommonly comprehensive and long-term program designed to help more students graduate and help them graduate more quickly.

This report presents results from a random assignment study of ASAP at three CUNY community colleges: Borough of Manhattan, Kingsborough, and LaGuardia. Low-income students who needed one or two developmental courses were randomly assigned either to a program group, who could participate in ASAP, or to a control group, who could receive the usual college services. Comparing the two groups’ outcomes provides an estimate of ASAP’s effects. Key findings from the report include the following:

  • ASAP was well implemented.
  • ASAP substantially improved students’ academic outcomes over three years, almost doubling graduation rates.
  • At the three-year point, the cost per degree was lower in ASAP than in the control condition.

Doubling Graduation Rates: Three-Year Effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students