In January 2007 the City University of New York (CUNY) received funding from the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) to establish the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). The ASAP program is designed to help students earn their Associate’s degree as quickly as possible, with a target of 50% of students graduating within three years. In fall 2007 ASAP began with a pilot cohort of 1,132 students who were deemed fully skills proficient in reading, writing, and math. The fall 2007 ASAP cohort included 319 students (28%) who had been conditionally accepted in summer 2007 while they completed any required developmental courses in order to join the program.
ASAP students entered into full-time study in Associate’s degree programs closely related to future employment prospects and transferability to 4-year colleges. The program is located at all six CUNY community colleges: Borough of Manhattan Community, Bronx, Hostos, Kingsborough, La Guardia, and Queensborough.
The ASAP program brings together a set of comprehensive services and incentives that have been identified as being helpful to improving the retention, performance, and graduation rates of community college students (Bailey and Alfonso, 2005; Kuh, Buckley, Bridges, & Hayek, 2007; Tinto, 1993). Financial incentives include tuition waivers for financial-aid eligible students and free monthly Metrocards and use of textbooks for all students. Key program elements include required full-time study, a consolidated course schedule, cohort grouping by majors, small class size, comprehensive advisement, academic, and career development services delivered by full-time ASAP staff, and a range of special programs.
Community college students often have multiple responsibilities, and face significant barriers to fulltime study and degree completion. According to the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA), 18% of CUNY community college students are supporting at least one child, most of whom are under five years of age; 33% of CUNY community college students spend at least six hours per week providing care for other people; 66% of CUNY community college students work at least part time; and 75% are from households with annual incomes below $40,000. While the vast majority of CUNY community college students begin their studies on a full-time basis (87% for the fall 2002 cohort), nearly half, 45%, drop to part-time status in one or more subsequent semesters, significantly reducing the likelihood of degree completion. Analysis of 6-year CUNY institution graduation rates reveals that for the fall 2002 cohort of first-time, full-time freshmen at the six CUNY community colleges, only 26% of these students graduated six years later.
To determine the impact of the ASAP program, CUNY used a constructed comparison group evaluation method to compare ASAP students’ outcomes against a group of similar students. The comparison group from fall 2006 who met the same criteria that ASAP students were required to meet in fall 2007 in order to join the program (See Table 1). An additional comparison group from fall 2007 who met the same criteria was created for socioeconomic analysis. CUNY and CEO have used this framework to measure the performance of ASAP students over the last two years, along with other administrative data and student surveys. Metis Associates, one of CEO’s independent evaluators, provided a review of this method and the criteria for comparison group matching (see Appendix I in the full report). Their comments helped to refine this analysis of early program impacts. (author abstract)