Study: ASAP cuts cost per graduate

City University of New York’s ASAP program is cost effective when measured by dollars per degree, concludes a new study by Henry M. Levin and Emma Garcia. At six community colleges, more than half of ASAP students graduated in three years, compared to a quarter of similar students not in ASAP.

ASAP is designed to help motivated community college students earn their degrees as quickly as possible. Key ASAP program features include a consolidated block schedule, cohorts by major, small class size, required full-time study, and comprehensive advisement and career development services. Financial incentives include tuition waivers for financial aid eligible students and free use of textbooks and monthly Metrocards for all students.

ASAP costs more, but the cost per graduate is less, the study found. “ASAP can increase considerably the number of CUNY community college graduates while actually reducing costs.”

CUNY faculty fight Pathways standardization

To conform with City University of New York’s Pathways program, which is designed to help community college students transfer credits, English professors at Queensborough Community College were told to cut an hour from four-hour composition courses. They refused. In response, a college vice president,  Karen Steele, sent the department a memo threatening to cancel the composition courses and tell students to take composition at other CUNY campuses. The enrollment drop would force the college to cancel job searches for full-time faculty, send layoff notices to adjuncts and possibly lay off full-time professors, Steele wrote.

Faculty are furious, reports Inside Higher Ed.  After the memo was attacked on several blogs — The Danger of Ignoring Shared Governance, and CUNY Declares War on Rebel English Department were two headlines — the college president told faculty there’s no retaliation plan: “The potential consequences as described in Vice President Steele’s email illustrate the worst case scenario — one we are prepared to work mightily to avoid,” wrote Diane Call.

Some faculty leaders believe Pathways “takes too much power away from individual campuses and departments, and that easing transfer could come at the expense of academic rigor,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Those fears now have been inflamed.

The KIPP model goes to college

The City University of New York’s experimental New Community College, which will have more resources, structure and paternalism, resembles KIPP’s model for charter schools, writes Richard Kahlenberg in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Like KIPP, the New Community College mixes conservative and liberal approaches.

. . . students must submit to “mandatory full-time enrollment for the first year, mandatory and frequent tutoring and counseling … and very little choice in classes.”  Indeed, (New York Times reporter Richard) Perez-Pena writes, “all students will take the same classes for the first year,” with the exception of math, which is divided into two sections.  Like KIPP, which has a long school year, the New Community College requires that “before students can start any classes, they must attend a bridge program spread over three weeks in August.”

At the same time, the New Community College lets all students start in for-credit classes with embedded basic skills instruction.

KIPP invests in its students. New Community College also will devote more resources to students’ success, more than $30,000 per student in the first year compared to $10,000 at the average CUNY two-year college.

Of course, KIPP primarily runs middle schools. Kahlenberg worries about dictating courses for young adults.

I’ve been reading Andrew Delbanco’s College: What It Is, Was, and Should Be, and am struck by his aspiration that college be “an aid to reflection, a place and process whereby young people take stock of their talents and passions and begin to sort out their lives in a way that is true to themselves and responsible to others.”  When a curriculum is almost entirely prescribed, I wonder whether the process of discovering talents and passions is stunted.

Still, it makes sense to experiment, he concludes. Nationwide, 81.4 percent of first-time community college students say they want to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree, yet only 11.6 percent reach their goal.

CUNY launches community college experiment

If community college students enrolled full-time, learned basic skills in for-credit classes, took a well-planned schedule of courses together, received mandatory tutoring and counseling . . .  The New Community College, CUNY’s Multimillion-Dollar Experiment in Education, will test whether its intensive program boosta success rates, reports the New York Times.

Of 4,000 students listed the new college on their CUNY application, 504 showed up for the mandatory information session and 339 decided to enroll.

“New” students will take the same classes, although there are two levels of math.

. . .  too often students receive little guidance about how to navigate the system and how to choose a combination of classes that will move them closer to graduation.

“You look at the transcripts of a lot of community college students, and it looks like they stood with their backs to the course catalog and threw darts at it,” said Kay McClenney, director of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas, Austin. “They wander into college, wander around the curriculum, and then they wander out the door.”

Basic skills instruction will be built into every course, along with college-level work, so students can begin earning credits immediately.

 The classes will emphasize collaborative and interdisciplinary work. There are none called “History” or “English.” One course, “City Seminar,” will use urban studies to explore government, culture, history and health. Another, “Ethnographies of Work,” will study sociology and business through the lens of various careers, and put students in touch with potential future employers.

All students will attend a three-week bridge program in August.  Once they get started, they’ll be required to use skills labs, peer study groups, tutors and advisers.

 “This is absolutely crucial because so many students appear at the door of community colleges completely clueless about what is required of them, or available to them,” said Ms. McClenney of the University of Texas. “They don’t know they need to do work outside of class. They don’t take advantage of tutoring and mentoring services. They don’t know about peer study groups or interacting with faculty.”

Students also will be required to spend 90 minutes a week in “group work space,” working with classmates on writing and language skills. They’ll also have mandatory weekly 90-minute group sessions with  “student success advocates,” who’ll help develop study skills, deal with stress and cope with problems — before they drop out.

When these strategies are tried in isolation, they have a “modest positive effect” that doesn’t last, said Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia. “This will be a chance to see what happens if you do them together, consistently, over a longer period of time.”

New Community College will spend more than $30,0000 per student in its first year, compared to $10,000 a year for the average full-time CUNY community college student. The price is expected to decline, reaching only about 30 percent more per student. Advocates predict the cost per degree will be much lower. Taxpayers will save money when students spend fewer years in school and leave college as graduates rather than dropouts, they argue.

Of course, if the college works for students who commit to an intensive, highly structured program, that doesn’t mean it will work for the average student.

CUNY pilot boosts college success

Accelerated, intensive study seems to be working for low-income students at three City University of New York (CUNY) community colleges, concludes an MDRC evaluation. Students in Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) were more likely to complete remedial coursework successfully; they also earned more credits than the control group.

ASAP requires students to attend college full time and provides a rich array of supports and incentives for up to three years, with a goal of graduating at least 50 percent of students within three years. Unlike many programs, ASAP aims to simultaneously address multiple barriers to student success over many semesters. The program model includes some block-scheduled classes for ASAP students for the first year of the program; an ASAP seminar for at least the first year, which covers such topics as goal-setting and academic planning; comprehensive advisement; tutoring; career services; a tuition waiver that covers any gap between a student’s financial aid and tuition and fees; free MetroCards for use on public transportation; and free use of textbooks.

ASAP students at Borough of Manhattan, Kingsborough, and LaGuardia colleges who needed one or two remedial courses were compared with similar students who received the colleges’ regular services and classes.

During the study’s first semester, ASAP increased full-time enrollment by 11 percentage points: 96 percent of the students assigned to ASAP enrolled full time, compared with 85 percent of the comparison group.

ASAP increased the average number of credits earned during the first semester by 2.1 credits and increased the proportion of students who completed their developmental coursework by the end of that semester by 15 percentage points.

Semester-to-semester retention. ASAP increased the proportion of students who enrolled in college during the second semester by 10 percentage points and increased full-time enrollment that semester by 21 percentage points.

ASAP offers a more comprehensive package of financial aid, services, and supports than most programs designed to raise community college graduation rates, MDRC notes. The effects — at least in the early stages — are more significant.

High costs for high dropout rate

Fifty-one percent of New York City’s community college students drop out, concludes a new report by the Center for an Urban Future. Six years after enrollment, only 20 percent have completed an associate degree and 8 percent a bachelor’s degree. Twelve percent have transferred, but haven’t earned a degree and aren’t likely to do so. Another nine percent are still enrolled.

The cost per community college dropout is $17,700 in federal and state financial aid and in city and state funding for the community college system, the report estimates.

Enrollment increased by 43 percent in the past decade.

“Community colleges are probably the most underappreciated part of the education system, and not just in New York,” said Jonathan Bowles, director of Center for an Urban Future.

Nearly four out of five new students requires remedial reading, writing or math — or all three — college officials say.



Unready at CUNY

Graduating from a New York City public high school — even with good grades — is no guarantee of college readiness, reports Michael Winerip in the New York Times.  Seventy-four percent who enroll in City University of New York’s community colleges require remediation in at least one subject and 22.6 percent need remedial reading and writing and math. One semester of intensive remediation – five hours a day of reading, writing and math, five days a week — is working for some students.

In June, Desiree Smith was graduated from Murry Bergtraum High. Her grades were in the 90s, she said, and she had passed the four state Regents exams. . . .

She failed all three placement tests for LaGuardia and is now taking remediation in reading, writing and math. So are Nikita Thomas, of Bedford Stuyvesant Prep; Sade Washington, of the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem; Stacey Sumulong, of Queens Vocational and Technical; Lucrecia Woolford of John Adams High; and Juan Rodriguez of Grover Cleveland High. “Passing the Regents don’t mean nothing,” Ms. Thomas said. “The main focus in high school is to get you to graduate; it makes the school look good. They get you in and get you out.”

CUNY’s Start has enrolled 302 students so far: 241 stayed the entire semester, 159 of whom were able to pass all three remediation tests. That compares favorably to traditional remedial classes.

This semester, 700 Start students are studying at the six campuses. Many are attracted by the $75 cost, compared to $1,800 a seemster to take primarily no-credit remedial classes.

Start teachers strive for understanding, students say.

“In math in high school if you got called on to answer a problem and gave no answer, the teacher moved on,” said Pedro Vargas, a 2011 graduate of Richmond Hill High in Queens. “Here they keep asking, they want you to explore.”

Ms. Washington, 18, said that in high school, a lot of time was spent gaming the system. “The big thing they cared about was keeping the graduation rate up,” she said. “Whatever they had to do to get you to graduate — if it means like a little trick to get you out, tell you to do this, do that and you’re out.”

Many students who require remediation scored between the 65 needed to pass the Regents exams and the 75 the state believes predicts college readiness, said Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer for city schools.

Next year, evaluations of city high schools will include college readiness, notes Gotham Schools. That will lower grades for some schools.

Chicago also plans to evaluate high schools based on graduates’ college readiness.

CUNY will help train black, Latino males

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative will offer basic skills classes, job training, paid internships and mentoring to young black and Latino men. City University of New York hopes to play a key role, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Whenever there’s a conversation about educational or workforce preparedness goals in New York City, CUNY is going to be involved,” said Suri Duitch, associate university dean for continuing education and deputy to the senior university dean for academic affairs at CUNY. “

LaGuardia Community College will get funding to expand its health training program and Bronx Community College will be able to spin off a peer mentoring program for young men seeking a GED.

CUNY is also incorporating some of the findings from the city’s original round of research into other programs already in place. “One commonality of all the effective programs is that they helped young men find and keep a stable adult in their lives,” Duitch said. “And we will incorporate those into our models as well.”

As part of the initiative, city high schools’ performance grades will factor in the success rates of black and Latino male students.


CUNY profs fight transfer reform

To help transfer students earn a bachelor’s degree, City University of New York plans to set a core curriculum for all two-year and four-year CUNY schools and reduce the number of general-education credits required for graduation.  But many professors are protesting the Pathways Project, reports the New York Times. They say the plan will undercut the quality of the bachelor’s degree at CUNY’s 11 four-year colleges.

Professors at those campuses, from the College of Staten Island to Lehman College in the Bronx, say the reduction in required core credits will erode the liberal arts foundation of the degrees the colleges award, and threaten the increased respect and enhanced student performance the university has worked so hard to win.

Some professors also argue that community college courses aren’t as rigorous as comparable classes at senior colleges.

Pathways would require students to earn 42 general-education credits; some senior colleges require 60, far above the national average.

A number of state university systems, including the State University of New York, are working with community colleges to ease transfers and ensure that credits are recognized.  Eager to raise college graduation rates, the U.S. Education Department sent a “College Completion Tool Kit” to state leaders in March.  It includes a recommendation to develop general education curricula accepted by all two- and four-year institutions.

At the University System of Georgia, a committee devised a common core curriculum for the university’s three dozen colleges in the 1990s, also settling on 42 credits to fulfill the requirement. George W. Rainbolt, a professor of philosophy who headed the curriculum committee, said that transfers were now mostly seamless and that graduation rates had improved.

Most striking, Dr. Rainbolt said, is the fact that the changes have helped close a wide gap in the graduation rates of black and white students. A convoluted system, he said, is trickier for low-income students, who may not have friends and relatives to advise them on the best sequence of courses.

If CUNY trustees approve Pathways in June, a committee of faculty members, administrators and students will decide on the core curriculum with 30 credits allotted for general education at the community colleges and 12 more at the senior colleges.

Any general education course at a two-year college would automatically be accepted by other CUNY colleges.

CUNY remediation needs remediation

CUNY’s remedial classes need remediation, writes John Garvey, former dean for collaborative programs, on EdVox.

Remedial students are a heavy burden for CUNY, according to a March 4 New York Times story.  Three-quarters of freshmen at CUNY community colleges need remedial instruction in reading, math or writing; one-quarter need help in all three. Some professors complain that college-ready students are neglected in order to serve students who aren’t prepared for college and aren’t likely to ever complete a degree.

CUNY’s approach to remediation is ineffective, Garvey writes.

  • the placement exams don’t do a consistently good job in assigning students to or exiting them from remedial classes, and they do not provide the diagnostic information necessary to enable teachers and students to identify what students know and understand as well as what they don’t know and misunderstand;
  • there is frequently an unrealistic expectation that students will be able to significantly enhance their skills and knowledge through participation in relatively little instruction—students in most remedial courses only attend class for three to six hours a week;
  • students are usually assigned to separate classes in reading, writing and math although almost all students would benefit from an integrated approach in which improvements in reading would lead to improvements in writing (and vice versa) and improvements in literacy skills would make math learning more effective;
  • the design of most remedial courses assumes that students need to focus on the basic skills of reading comprehension, grammar, arithmetic, and algebra and often doesn’t connect those skills to meaningful content;
  • since students must enroll for full-time study in order to qualify for financial aid, they frequently register for a combination of non-credit and unrelated non-credit courses that does not provide a solid foundation for beginning college;
  • many students who exit CUNY’s remedial courses discover that they’re not ready for the next credit-bearing courses.
  • CUNY’s community colleges spend $33 million a year on remediation, about 5 percent of the total budget. Is this too much?  Remedial students represent 15 percent of enrollment, Garvey notes. Fifteen percent of the budget would be $100 million. Furthermore, remedial students pay roughly $37 million in tuition.

    . . .  it is not clear that CUNY spends too much on remediation – it is far more likely that CUNY spends too little. Most important, the money CUNY spends on remediation is not spent effectively.

    CUNY is trying to improve, writes Garvey, citing CUNY START, “a radical redesign of traditional remediation.” In addition, the new community college will integrate basic skills instruction with credit-bearing courses, instead of making students take remedial classes.