College Completion: A Success Story

By AACC Staff

CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs can serve as a model.

Many of our community college students struggle to graduate on time. According to The Hechinger Report, less than one in five students in community college obtain their desired degree in three years or less. And it is not for lack of trying: Not only is the cost of higher education steadily rising, making it difficult for students to afford the courses they need in order to graduate, but also many students do not receive the guidance they need to successfully make it to completion.

At AACC, it is our mission to change that, promoting campus reforms nationwide to increase completion rates by 50 percent by 2020. The good news is that innovative programs in colleges across the country that are doing just that.

Increasing completion rates

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, City University of New York has seen success in increasing completion rates with a program called Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), nearly doubling the three-year graduation rate for students who start out in remedial classes. The program provides students with three years of wraparound academic and financial assistance, including free textbooks, a Metro Card for public transportation and a tuition waiver that covers any gap between a student’s financial aid and tuition fees.

Importantly, the program hinges on certain requirements from the participating students: Students have to attend college full time and are encouraged to take remedial courses early on and graduate within three years. Participation involves mandatory tutoring, career advising and seminars on topics like study skills and goal setting.

This is a great example of a program that encourages students’ investment in their own education: Students show their dedication through attendance and participation in mentor and adviser sessions, and colleges provide the financial and other support that students need to reach their goal of a degree.

The results are staggering: Forty percent of the participating students graduated within three years, compared with 22 percent outside the program and 15 percent nationwide. ASAP also increased college enrollment and credits earned, lowered the cost per degree and raised the number of students transferring to four-year colleges.

As we seek to reach President Barack Obama’s nationwide goal to increase completion rates, we can all look to this program as a model. We can achieve these results when we work side by side with students and provide them with the support and guidance they need to reach their educational goals.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, in which we talk with J. Michael Thomson, president of the Eastern Campus of Cuyahoga Community College, which, this fall, will become one of three Ohio community colleges to replicate this program.

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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