Evaluating Replications of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)

Line of college graduates in cap and gown, shown from the back


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. After six years, ASAP both continued to increase graduation rates and enabled some students to earn their degrees faster than they would have otherwise.

Due to these unprecedented effects, MDRC and CUNY partnered to launch the ASAP Ohio Demonstration, an effort to determine whether CUNY ASAP could be successfully implemented at community colleges in Ohio. Three Ohio community colleges — Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College — operated their own programs based on the CUNY ASAP model. Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation provided anchor funding for the project, and the colleges received technical assistance from CUNY, as well as operational support from MDRC and the Ohio Department of Higher Education. MDRC conducted an implementation and random assignment evaluation of the effort, which demonstrated that ASAP in Ohio nearly doubled three-year graduation rates and led to an increase in transfers to four-year colleges, mirroring the impacts achieved in the original CUNY program. Additionally, the Ohio programs had positive effects for various types of students, including those who entered with and without developmental education requirements, suggesting that the model’s comprehensive support can be implemented in various settings and help students with different needs.

With funding from Arnold Ventures, MDRC is conducting long-term follow-up to examine impacts on academic outcomes through eight years and labor market outcomes through 10 years. The labor market impacts will be the first experimental estimates of the effects of the ASAP model on employment and earnings.

In 2017, MDRC was invited to evaluate another replication of CUNY’s ASAP, this time at Westchester Community College in New York state. This study is supported by Arnold Ventures.

CUNY ASAP’s technical assistance team partners directly with institutions committed to replicating the ASAP model with a high level of fidelity. Please contact CUNY directly for more information at CUNYASAPReplication@cuny.edu.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

Ohio: ASAP Ohio Demonstration

The ASAP Ohio Demonstration sought to determine whether CUNY ASAP could be successfully implemented at three community colleges in Ohio and to confirm the positive academic impacts found in the evaluation of CUNY ASAP.

The ASAP Ohio Demonstration provided the following integrated package of supports:

  • Student supports (enhanced advising or coaching, tutoring, and career services)
  • Financial supports (a scholarship that covers the gap between grant aid and tuition and fees, conditional monthly gas/grocery cards, and textbook vouchers)
  • Specialized course enrollment options (block-scheduled classes and student success seminars or orientations).

In addition, students are required to enroll full time, complete developmental education courses early in their academic careers, and participate in the student support services.

To be eligible for the program and study, students had to meet the following criteria:

  1. Have a low income (defined as students who are eligible for Pell Grants)
  2. Be college-ready or in need of developmental education (the maximum amount of developmental education course needs will vary by college)
  3. Be degree-seeking and willing to attend college full time (defined as 12 credits per semester)
  4. Have completed 24 or fewer college-level credits
  5. Be in good academic standing (2.0 GPA at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; academically eligible for Pell Grants at Lorain County Community College and Cuyahoga County Community College)
  6. Choose an ASAP-eligible major (colleges may exclude a few majors that have requirements that make graduating within three years difficult, such as those with numerous prerequisite courses that are not consistently offered each semester)

To coordinate the three Ohio ASAP colleges, the Ohio Department of Education established the Ohio ASAP Network to promote cross-site interactions.

New York: The Viking ROADS Evaluation

With much of the provided supports and eligibility criteria being the same, the evaluation of the Westchester Community College replication of ASAP, called Viking ROADS, seeks to answer these questions: What is the effect of the opportunity to participate in WCC’s Viking ROADS program on the academic progress and success of students in the evaluation sample? In the short-term (one to two years after random assignment), the focus will be on the program’s effect on academic progress. In the longer-term (three years after random assignment), the focus will be on the program’s effect on earning a degree or certificate.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources


Three community colleges participated in the ASAP Ohio Demonstration study:

  • Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
  • Cuyahoga Community College.
  • Lorain County Community College

The study uses a random assignment design to estimate the causal effects of the opportunity to participate in the program. Eligible students were randomly assigned to either the program group, whose members are eligible to receive program services for up to three years, or to a control group, whose members are eligible for their colleges’ standard services. The evaluation also includes an implementation study of the program. The data analyzed will include quantitative data, such as transcript and administrative data, and qualitative data, such as interviews with faculty and staff members.

New York

Similarly, the evaluation at Westchester Community College will employ a random assignment design. The data analyzed will include: a baseline information form, transcript and other academic data from the college, and National Student Clearinghouse data.