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TC studies validate CUNY program to speed graduation

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Henry Levin

Henry Levin

A study by TC’s Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education (CBCSE) has found that a program at the City University of New York (CUNY) that is designed to accelerate degree completion within three years at community colleges is delivering “large financial returns on investment for the taxpayer and for the students in the program.”

The program, Accelerated Study in Associate Program (ASAP) was launched by CUNY in 2007. Its goal is to graduate at least 50 percent of the students enrolled in associate programs within three years, through the provision of services such as financial incentives; a consolidated full-time schedule; cohort and faculty support; regular advisement; career preparation; and extra academic assistance. 

Led by CBCSE Co-Director Henry Levin, TC’s William H. Kilpatrick Professor of Economics and Education, the TC study of ASAP found that for each dollar of investment in ASAP by taxpayers, the return was between $3 and $4 and around $12 for each dollar invested by the students, suggesting that ASAP is “a very productive public and private investment.” Levin and colleagues estimated that a cohort of 1,000 students enrolled in ASAP would generate taxpayer benefits of more than $46 million beyond those of investing an approximately equal amount in the conventional degree program.  The benefits would arise from the higher tax revenues and lower public costs of spending on public health, criminal justice, and public assistance of the additional graduates.  An evaluation of ASAP found that 55 percent of its enrollees graduated in three years in comparison with only 24 percent in the regular program.

At the same time, ASAP delivers significant value simply by virtue of being more cost-effective in producing community college graduates – despite the fact that it costs more to implement than traditional schooling – according to another study by CBCSE.  

"Although the ASAP program costs more for each student, it costs less per graduate because of the much higher effectiveness of the investment," Levin says.

The authors compared the cost of producing an additional graduate in the comparison group without ASAP with the cost when ASAP was provided. The conclusion is that ASAP is more effective in producing additional graduates in a timely fashion and that the cost per graduate for ASAP is comparable to or less than that of the traditional approach. ASAP can increase considerably the number of CUNY community college graduates while actually reducing costs.


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