While the U.S. has made strides in increasing college access among low-income students, college completion has remained low. Graduation rates are particularly stagnant among our nation’s community colleges, which enroll a large number of low-income and nontraditional college students. For example, only 20 percent of full-time, first-time degree-seeking students at public two-year colleges earn a degree within three years of enrollment. Evidence-based strategies to improve graduation rates are greatly needed as the nation has made increasing college completion a priority.
To facilitate timely degree completion, the City University of New York (CUNY) launched Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), a comprehensive program that provides students with up to three years of financial, academic, and student support services. MDRC rigorously evaluated ASAP using a randomized controlled trial and found that ASAP almost doubled graduation rates, from 22 percent to 40 percent, after three years.
Due to these unprecedented effects, MDRC and CUNY partnered to disseminate the evaluation’s findings and launch the ASAP Ohio Demonstration, an effort to determine whether CUNY ASAP can be successfully implemented at community colleges in Ohio and confirm the positive academic impacts found in the evaluation of CUNY ASAP. As part of the demonstration, three Ohio community colleges —Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College — began operating their own programs based on the CUNY ASAP model. Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation is providing anchor funding for the project, and the colleges are receiving technical assistance from CUNY, as well as operational support from MDRC and the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Additionally, MDRC is conducting an implementation and random assignment evaluation of the effort.