Dear Commons Community,
Anthony Rini passed on to me this piece in Inside Higher Education which comments on an evaluation of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). Anthony did his dissertation a couple of years ago on this program and came to a similar conclusion that is, if you put enough resources and enrich an associate degree program, graduation rates will improve. Here is a summary of the article:
“Fans of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) like its comprehensive approach to dismantling the hurdles low-income students face. And the results are compelling.
Students in the program are almost twice as likely to earn a degree, according to a new study from MDRC, a nonprofit research group. The research found that 40 percent of those students earned an associate degree in three years, easily topping the 22 percent rate of their peers in a control group who completed, and far surpassing typical community college graduation rates.
“The figures are terrific,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s faculty union. “If you invest more per student, you get a better result.”
So far 8,672 students have enrolled in ASAP, according to CUNY, at 7 of the system’s colleges (see list below). But the new study suggests that the program could be expanded, perhaps even broadly, without getting too expensive.
That might be surprising, given the wide range of supports participating students receive, including free tuition, textbooks and public transportation, as well as regular (and mandatory) access to an adviser with a relatively small caseload.
That all adds up to annual cost of $4,700 per student, on top of the roughly $8,000 CUNY spends each year to educate a full-time student. To help pay for the program, which began in 2007, the city kicked in $35 million.
Yet ASAP is cost-effective, at least per degree produced, which is an increasingly popular way for lawmakers to look at return on investment in higher education.
“The cost per graduate is less because we’re graduating twice as many students,” said Donna Linderman, CUNY’s university dean for student success initiatives.
The total cost to CUNY for a degree earned by a student in the tuition-free program was $105,000, according to MDRC, compared to $118,000 in the control group. The study’s sample included 451 ASAP students and 445 students in the control group.
The expense is dropping, too, as the program expands and up-front spending pays off. ASAP will cost an extra $3,900 per student this year, according to the system.”
Congratulations CUNY and all those involved with ASAP.