Scrivener, S., Weiss, M., Ratledge, A., Rudd, T., Sommo, C., & Fresques, H. (2015). Doubling graduation rates: Three-year effects of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for developmental education students. New York: MDRC.
- The study’s objective was to examine the effectiveness of the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) at three City University of New York (CUNY) schools on credits earned and completion of a college degree.
- At the three participating schools, eligible students were randomly assigned to the treatment group, which could participate in ASAP, or to the control group, which could not participate in ASAP but could access existing services at the schools. The primary data sources were a baseline information form, the CUNY Institutional Research Database, and National Student Clearinghouse records.
- The study found that students in the ASAP group were significantly more likely to earn a degree from any college in the fourth, fifth, and sixth semesters following random assignment, compared with the control group. In addition, during the sixth semester following random assignment, the treatment group was significantly more likely to be enrolled in a four-year college than the control group. Over the six semesters of the study, students in the treatment group earned significantly more total credits, college-level credits, and developmental credits than the control group.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to ASAP and not to other factors.
The Accelerated Study in Associate Program (ASAP)
Features of the Intervention
ASAP provided services and support to students for up to three years. Students in the program had to enroll full-time in courses; program staff advised students to complete developmental courses as soon as possible and encouraged them to graduate in three years. The program provided students access to advisors, career and employment specialists, and tutoring. In addition, students in ASAP took an ASAP seminar course, and were offered the opportunity to take blocked or linked courses, in which most students would be fellow ASAP participants. The program also provided a transportation stipend and free use of textbooks. A small portion of participants received tuition waivers and scholarships for transferring to a four-year program at a CUNY college.
Students were eligible to participate in the program if they (1) were Pell Grant-eligible or had family income less than 200 percent of the national poverty level; (2) needed to take at least one developmental course; (3) held 12 or fewer credits and a 2.0 grade point average, or were newly enrolled students; (4) were New York City residents; (5) were willing to attend college full-time; and (6) were pursuing an ASAP-eligible major. Most majors were eligible for ASAP, although each participating school excluded certain majors—such as nursing, allied health sciences, and engineering science—because their requirements made graduating within three years challenging.
Features of the Study
The study examined three of six CUNY community colleges implementing ASAP: Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), Kingsborough Community College (KCC), and LaGuardia Community College (LGCC). The schools participated in the study for three years. The study included two cohorts, one entering the program in spring 2010 and the other in fall 2010.
The authors identified 8,520 community college students eligible for ASAP and invited them to participate in the study. In total, 896 students consented to participate in the study and were randomly assigned to either the treatment group, which could participate in ASAP, or the control group, which could not participate in ASAP but could access existing services at the schools. Control group members took a freshman seminar or student success course during their first year at the school; at two of the schools, control group students could enroll in existing blocked courses. Random assignment at BMCC and KCC occurred before the spring and fall 2010 semesters; at LGCC, random assignment occurred before the fall 2010 semester only.
The study sample was predominantly female and the average age was 21.5 years old. About 44 percent of the sample was Hispanic, 34 percent was African American, and 10 percent was white. A third of the sample were returning students, 60 percent were newly enrolled freshman, and 7 percent were transfer students.
The authors used students’ demographic information from a baseline information form, their transcript information from the CUNY Institutional Research Database, and enrollment and degree completion information from the National Student Clearinghouse. The authors estimated regression models comparing the outcomes of treatment and control group members for six semesters following random assignment. The three schools had different term lengths, so the authors defined the spring semester as both the spring and summer terms and the fall semester as both the fall and winter terms.
- Students in the ASAP group were significantly more likely than the control group to earn a degree from any college in the fourth, fifth, and sixth semesters following random assignment.
- In addition, 25 percent of the treatment group was enrolled in a four-year college in the sixth semester after random assignment, compared with 17 percent of the control group. This difference was statistically significant.
- The treatment group earned significantly more total, college-level, and developmental credits cumulatively across the six semesters. In each of the six semesters of the study, students in the ASAP group were significantly more likely to complete developmental requirements than the control group students.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The treatment condition was implemented differently among the three colleges. For example, at two schools, the career services focused on long-term career goals, whereas career services at the third school focused on short-term career goals. At two of the schools, a freshman seminar course that was also offered to control students replaced the ASAP seminar. In addition, the types of courses offered as blocked courses, as well as the level of encouragement for students to take the blocked courses, varied by school.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to ASAP, and not to other factors.