Improving student outcomes via comprehensive supports: Three-year outcomes from CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) (Kolenovic et al. 2013)
Kolenovic, Z., Linderman, D., & Karp, M. (2013). Improving student outcomes via comprehensive supports: Three-year outcomes from CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). Community College Review, 41(4), 271-291.
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- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) conducted by the City University of New York (CUNY) on retention, credit accrual, transfer, and degree attainment at six CUNY campuses.
- The authors used administrative data from the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to match students who participated in ASAP with similar students who enrolled the previous year and did not participate in ASAP and compared their outcomes.
- The study found that ASAP students had higher one-year retention rates, were more likely to graduate within two or three years, and accrued more credits than comparison students.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the analysis compared students in different cohorts, and we cannot rule out the possibility that differences in outcomes between the two groups were due to other changes taking place at the same time that only affected one of the cohorts. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to ASAP; other factors likely contributed.
CUNY, in conjunction with the Center for Economic Opportunity, developed ASAP in 2007. The program aimed to support community college students seeking associate’s degrees by providing enhanced services. The program was implemented in all six CUNY community colleges and included the following components: (1) a requirement to attend college full time; (2) block-scheduled classes with other ASAP students for the first year of the program; (3) participation in an ASAP seminar that covers goal-setting, study skills, and academic planning for at least two semesters of the program; (4) free use of textbooks during the semester; (5) comprehensive advising from an ASAP adviser with a small caseload of 60 to 80 students; (6) tutoring; (7) career services; (8) a tuition waiver that covered any gap between a student’s financial aid and tuition and fees; and (9) free monthly MetroCards. ASAP encouraged participants to complete their developmental education early and graduate within three years. Therefore, ASAP included only students in approved majors. Approved majors were linked to New York’s economic needs and transfer opportunities within the CUNY system and had requirements that could reasonably be completed in three years.
Features of the Study
Students in the study’s treatment group were New York City residents, had fewer than 12 college credits, were pursuing an associate’s degree in one of the approved majors for ASAP, were not enrolled in any other special CUNY support program, and had completed developmental education coursework. The authors used propensity-score matching procedures to select comparison group students who entered CUNY in 2006 and were similar to treatment students who entered in 2007. They estimated impacts by comparing outcomes of ASAP students to those of the matched comparison students. The authors matched ASAP and comparison students using the following variables: gender, race and ethnicity, age, college attended, exemption from taking CUNY assessment tests, continuing or transfer student status, dependency status for financial aid purposes, and Pell and New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program grant receipt as a proxy for income. Analyses used student-level data and followed students from initial enrollment into CUNY or ASAP through three academic years.
- The study found that the one-year retention rate for ASAP students was 11.9 percent higher than that of the matched sample of comparison students, a statistically significant difference.
- After three semesters, ASAP students had earned an average of 3.7 more credits than the matched comparison students. They also accumulated significantly more credits (an average of 6.6 more) than matched comparison students after three years of college enrollment. Both differences were statistically significant.
- Two and three years after enrollment, 30.2 and 54.7 percent of ASAP students earned a degree, compared with 12.1 and 26.4 percent of matched comparison students, respectively. Both were statistically significant differences.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The treatment group and the comparison group were from different cohorts—the treatment group entered CUNY in 2007, and the comparison group entered CUNY in 2006. Thus, we cannot rule out the possibility that differences in outcomes between the treatment and comparison groups were due to other changes taking place at the same time that only affected one of the study groups. For example, suppose a policy change that was enacted in 2007 decreased income thresholds for financial aid. This change could have made it easier for ASAP students to remain at CUNY and/or earn more credits. In this case, any observed differences in outcomes between ASAP and comparison students could be due to the policy change rather than ASAP.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the analysis compared students in different cohorts, and we cannot rule out the possibility that differences in outcomes between the two groups were due to other changes taking place at the same time that only affected one of the cohorts. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to ASAP; other factors likely contributed.