Program Boosting Graduation Rates for Low-Income CUNY Students: Study

A City University of New York program designed to improve the notoriously low graduation rates of low-income community college students appears to be working, according to preliminary results of an independent study.

About 1,300 students are currently enrolled in CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, which offers low-income students support and incentives to stay in school such as free tutoring, admission to special seminars, career services and free MetroCards. These benefits have proved to be an incentive for students, educators say.

“That’s how we’ve been able to more than double the graduation rate of students that are in the program,” said Donna Linderman, University Executive Director of ASAP.   

Students enrolled in the ASAP program increased the average number of credits earned during their first semester by 2.1 credits compared to students in similar financial circumstances not enrolled in the program, the data showed.

Full-time enrollment increased among students in the program, by 11 percent

ASAP also pays any gap between financial aid and tuition for community college students accepted into the program, which requires students to be enrolled full-time. It costs $6,000 per student per year.

The nonprofit education and social policy research firm MDRC released preliminary data on Wednesday from its study of about 450 students enrolled in the program for two semesters.

“This program seems to have more potential than most to really substantially help students,” said Susan Scrivener, a senior research associate with MDRC.

Experts say community colleges across the country are challenged by unprepared students who attend only part time and too often drop out before graduating.

The study is following 900 students over five years; half of them are enrolled in ASAP.