ASAP takes root in Ohio

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The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) has been lauded for its success in increasing student graduation rates among participating New York City community colleges, but education advocates have wondered if the model could work elsewhere because of its requirements that students attend full time and that comprehensive services be offered students.

A new report says three community colleges in Ohio are showing that it can.

Two-year results from an evaluation by the research firm MDRC indicate that the Ohio programs boosted semester-to-semester persistence and credit accumulation and more than doubled the graduation rate (from 7.9 percent to 19.1 percent).

“The successful adaptation of the City University of New York’s ASAP program in Ohio is remarkable because it shows that the model can achieve great results in new contexts and with different types of students,” MDRC President Gordon Berlin said in a news release. “It also speaks to the strength of the original program.”

In 2014, Cuyahoga Community College, Lorain County Community College, and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College set out to address their low-income students’ needs by adapting the CUNY-developed ASAP.

Looking for a new approach

CUNY launched ASAP in 2007 at the then six existing CUNY community colleges to dramatically increase timely graduation. ASAP requires students to attend college full time and provides them with a rich array of supports for three full years, including: enhanced advising, block-scheduled first-year courses, cohort course-taking, tutoring, career services, a tuition gap waiver that covers any need between a student’s financial aid and tuition and fees, MetroCards for use on public transportation and textbook assistance.

Based on the success of the program, ASAP has been scaled across CUNY from 1,132 students in 2007 to 25,000 students this academic year.

The three Ohio colleges modeled their programs’ administrative structure and services after CUNY ASAP, with a few adjustments to meet local needs. For example, instead of MetroCards, the colleges offer $50 gift cards for use at local gas and grocery store chains.

The Ohio colleges focused on students who were low-income, college-ready or in need of developmental education, degree seeking, willing to attend full time, and in a major where a degree could be completed within three years, the report said. Students could be new to the college or could be continuing students with up to 24 credits.

CUNY provided technical assistance to the colleges, and the Ohio Department of Higher Education coordinated the Ohio ASAP Network, which allowed administrators to share lessons across the three colleges.

Key findings

The study compared the Ohio demonstration of ASAP with regular services and classes at the colleges. Key findings include:

  • Ohio ASAP greatly increased the number of credits earned. The program group earned roughly two additional credits per semester — representing a 37 percent increase in credit accumulation after two years.
  • It also more than doubled graduation rates after two years. Nineteen percent of the program group have earned a degree or credential, compared with 7.9 percent of the control group.
  • The Ohio schools serve predominantly nontraditional students. Compared with the sample from MDRC’s evaluation of CUNY ASAP, students in Ohio are somewhat older, more likely to be parents and are twice as likely to be working.
  • The pilot program boosted full-time enrollment, semester-to-semester persistence and summer enrollment. Students in the programs were more likely to remain enrolled from semester to semester (by more than 9 percentage points in the second through fourth semesters). The effects on full-time enrollment were even larger — 18 percentage points in the first semester and ranging from 11 to 19 percentage points in subsequent semesters. ASAP in Ohio boosted summer enrollment by 24 percentage points in the first summer and 12 percentage points in the second.

“This suggests that many students who currently enroll part time would enroll full time and in summer sessions with the right set of requirements and supports,” the report said.

The annual cost per program participant of the Ohio demonstration was $2,331 per year.

Ready to do more

At Lorain County Community College (LCCC), the Students Accelerating in Learning (SAIL) program — which is modeled after CUNY ASAP — has “proven to be a game changer for students,” said President Marcia Ballinger. Through the program, students were provided intense advising and wrap-around supports, which helped them to overcome barriers and succeed.

“We see the results in the data. LCCC has already been able to achieve outcomes similar to the CUNY model with 41 percent of LCCC SAIL students graduating in three years,” said Ballinger, who added that the college plans to continue the work of the pilot and expand it from 150 students to 1,000 students within five years.

The Ohio demonstration of ASAP and MDRC’s evaluation are supported by the Ascendium Education Group, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ECMC Foundation, Ford Foundation,  Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Haile U.S. Bank Foundation, KnowledgeWorks, Kresge Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and Lumina Foundation.

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