The (De)Acceleration of College

Inside Higher Ed

When it comes to increasing student success, higher ed institutions have launched innumerable “initiatives.” A large part of this initiative deluge has to do with declining public funding for higher ed, which then causes institutions to seek more and more grants that are tied to implementing more and more initiatives. However, if the ultimate goal is to increase completion rates for students—rates that have stagnated according to recent reports—then we must assess the merits of each of these many initiatives, so we can not only say yes, but, just as importantly, no.....

.....In 2021, after President Biden announced plans to invest $62 billion in evidence-based reforms to boost college completion, the think tank Third Way had the audacity to ask, in anticipation of such a windfall, “What if CUNY ASAP Was Replicated From Coast to Coast?”

For those who aren’t familiar with CUNY ASAP, although advertised as an acceleration initiative, it is the ultimate complete support initiative. For example, as detailed in a 2015 evaluation report from MDRC, students who are enrolled in ASAP work with a dedicated adviser with a small caseload and also have a dedicated career adviser and dedicated tutoring services. In their first few semesters, they take seminars on setting goals and study skills, and, if necessary, they take remedial coursework in English and math early.

ASAP students also receive a tuition waiver that covers any gap between financial aid and college tuition and fees, free MetroCards for use on public transportation, and free use of textbooks. The consequence of this support is acceleration: the MDRC study found the program nearly doubled graduation rates within three years. Instead of making it easier or faster for students to receive degrees with the hope this will dent inequality, we must dent inequality first so the underprivileged student can devote the time to earn the degree.....

Full Article