Harvard lavishes counseling and support on its elite students, while students who really need the help are left to sink or swim, writes David L. Kirp, a Berkeley public policy professor of public policy, in the New York Times. Non-elite colleges can raise graduation rates by providing structure , guidance and financial aid, he writes.
At the City University of New York’s community colleges, the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) has more than doubled graduation rates, according to a MDRC report: 56 percent of ASAP students have graduated compared to 23 percent of the control group.
The program for community-college students addresses money issues, which are typically students’ top concern, by covering tuition that’s not paid for by federal and state grants, as well as paying for public transit and giving students free use of textbooks, saving them upward of $900 a year. To help balance the demands of college with work, life and family obligations, students take their classes in a consolidated course schedule (morning, afternoon or evening).
While the added dollars make a big difference, students consistently report in individual profiles found on the CUNY ASAP website that the personal touch — biweekly seminars and one-on-one advising — is crucial. The ASAP adviser for Desiree Rivera, a LaGuardia student, became her life coach. “I am completely able to let my guard down around her and discuss both personal and academic struggles,” Ms. Rivera wrote on her profile. “Her support has played a major role in my success as an ASAP student.”
ASAP costs $3,900 per student each year, but “it’s a solid investment for New York City’s taxpayers,” writes Kirp. “Total lifetime benefits — from increased tax revenues as well as savings in crime, welfare and health costs — are a whopping $205,514 per associate degree graduate,” another study estimates.
CUNY is tripling the size of ASAP by fall. The “strategy merits a nationwide rollout,” writes Kirp. The nation badly needs educated workers.