A bill to take ASAP nationwide

A House bill to improve graduation rates at community colleges would aim to replicate across the country a successful City University of New York (CUNY) program.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York) last week re-introduced the Community College Student Success Act, which would scale up CUNY’s highly regarded Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). ASAP largely focus on support services to help community college students succeed. A few states such as Ohio already have adopted a version of the program.

Meng noted in a press release that community college students comprise more than 40 percent of all U.S. undergraduates. However, many public two-year colleges are under-resourced, and their students often face challenges in completing credentials for a myriad of reasons.

“If Congress truly values the importance of educating our next generation, we must increase our investment in these colleges and the students they serve,” she said. “Everybody deserves a quality education, no matter their background, because education is a civil right.”

Assistance to students

CUNY launched ASAP in 2007 at its then six community colleges. The program has helped to increase the number of students earning associate degrees within three years by offering a range of financial, academic and personal assistance. The proposed legislation would focus on those three areas, according to Meng’s office:

Academic advising: Advisors would provide ongoing academic and personal advising to students, including helping to present a three-year graduation plan and creating strong transfer pathways for students interested in continuing their education.
Academic and career support: Students on academic probation or those referred to developmental courses would have to meet weekly with a tutor. Students would also meet with an on-campus career counselor or participate in career services events at least once a semester to promote career planning and success.
Financial support: Students would receive a tuition waiver to cover the gap between tuition and fees and financial aid. Additionally, students satisfying all of the above meeting requirements would receive a financial incentive, such as a gas card or pass for transportation, at least once per month.

Selected colleges would receive a five-year grant and most would have to increasingly contribute to the cost of carrying out the program from nonfederal sources, from 20 percent in the second year, to 80 percent in the fifth year. The colleges also would provide reports to the federal government regarding the average number of credits attempted, the average number of credits earned, rate of retention, rate of degree completion and transfer rates.

The bill would seek to authorize a $10 billion appropriation over 10 years (2020 to 2030) for the program.

According to CUNY, ASAP has served more than 46,000 students over 12 years and has an average three-year graduation rate of 53.4 percent, compared to 25 percent among matched comparison group students. Additionally, ASAP students transfer to baccalaureate programs and earn their bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than non-ASAP students.

Related article: ‘Wraparound services and student success’

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