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PR- 282-10
June 22, 2010


City Graduation Rate Far Exceeds National Average with 53 Percent of Students Receiving Degrees in Three Years

Center for Economic Opportunity Program Provides Support to Help Students and Working Adults Complete Associate Degrees

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will join City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein to preside at a graduation recognition ceremony later today for the students who completed the City’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). The program provides extensive support to help students and working adults complete associate degrees. When the program was launched in 2007, the Mayor and Chancellor set the ambitious goal of graduating at least 50 percent of students within three years – a rate that is more than three times the national average for urban community colleges. The City has already reached that goal, with 53 percent of students completing their coursework, and is on track to reach 56 percent in September. 

Three years ago, our Center for Economic Opportunity developed the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs based on the simple notion that we can make school schedules more conducive to the demands of working families,” said Mayor Bloomberg.  “Our community colleges are the gateway to opportunity for so many people looking to further their own careers and create a better life for their families. They serve as a model for other cities that want to restore America’s leadership in higher education.” 

“ASAP would not exist without the steadfast support of the Mayor and the City’s Center for Economic Opportunity,” said Chancellor Goldstein. “It can be extremely challenging for community college students to balance a college schedule with the demands of work and family. As a result, too many students are not able to complete their associate degrees in a timely manner, if at all. ASAP helps eliminate these stresses by providing students with the academic, social, and financial support they need to graduate with an Associate in Art, Science or Applied Science Degree in no more than three years.” 

“This program provides a valuable support network for community college students,” said Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs.  “By participating in this program, these students are working towards future success for not only themselves, but their families as well.”

“Education is the key to a better future,” said Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott.  “Our partnership with CUNY has created a comprehensive program that makes getting a post-secondary degree possible for so many who thought it was impossible.”

The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs creates a comprehensive response to the difficulties confronting community college students. ASAP students study in small, connected groups with similar interests and goals. Students attend the summer program and classes each semester together, thereby encouraging close and mutually supportive relationships. The classes are taught by faculty who are committed to helping ASAP students realize their full potential, and a range of scheduling options allows students to attend classes without interfering with other responsibilities. Additionally, an experienced full-time advisor guides each student’s progress and helps them plan for their futures – particularly with the application process for transferring into four-year bachelor’s programs.  In fact, 64 percent of ASAP two-year graduates have already transferred into a CUNY four-year college. There are presently 1000 students enrolled in the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs at all six of the City University of New York’s community colleges.

Javier Gonzalez earned his associate degree at Borough of Manhattan Community College with a 3.4 GPA after only one and a half years.  He received BMCC’s “Out in Two” scholarship award and has maintained a 3.6 GPA while majoring in Business Communication at Baruch College.  He said, “ASAP really developed my skills so I am doing very well now at Baruch College.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in but at BMCC I found that I was very good in business communications.  It helped me decide what I wanted to do in my four-year program.  I am very grateful to the program.”

Fatima Nisa Ali graduated with a 3.9 GPA from Queensborough Community College in 2009 after two years. She made the Dean’s List every semester, as she has at Queens College where she has a 3.93 GPA as an English literature major.  Ms. Ali, who plans to earn a Ph.D. and teach at the college level, was part of a service learning project at a homeless shelter while at Queensborough.  She won the ASAP Transfer Scholarship, the Queens College Transfer Scholarship and the Robert D. Crozier Memorial Award for excellence in literature and writing.  She said, “ASAP was a wonderful stepping stone in the transition from high school to college.  It provided support for future goals. Having an adviser who you could go to when you are undergoing stress is very helpful.  You feel you are not alone.  I am still in contact with my adviser. Now that I am in a four-year school I find it easier to handle things on my own.”

Carolina Bonilla obtained her GED in 2007, majored in Business Management at Hostos Community College, made the Dean’s List, and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.  She also received scholarships from Wachovia Bank, the New York City Housing Authority and Home Depot.  Ms. Bonilla received a peer tutor award from ASAP and is currently majoring in Public Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she has a 3.3 GPA.  She is the mother of two children, one of them is disabled.  She said, “The ASAP program was a life-changing experience.  I felt like it was a scholarship.  It made me feel there was no reason for me not to succeed.  It gave me a laptop so I could do my work, there was tutoring before school so it helped me with my work; they gave me a Metrocard so there was no excuse to miss a class.  There was so much support it was like a close family.  It opened my eyes to what I could do after failing at other opportunities in my life.  Now I am a Public Administration major at John Jay College and doing very well.”

The value of an associate degree when compared to a high school diploma is considerable.  According to a recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Employment and the Workforce; of the 47 million jobs that will be created in the next 10 years, 14 million will require two-year degrees.  And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a person with an associate degree in 2007 earned $10,759 more per year than someone with just a high school diploma.

“We have a motto in ASAP which is, ‘Make it Happen’,” said LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow. “LaGuardia Community College students are certainly making it happen. Our ASAP program is on track to graduate more than 50 percent of our students. ASAP’s investment is paying huge dividends and provides important insights into what’s needed to help students keep on track towards graduation.”

“Eugenio María de Hostos Community College is proud to have been part of the ASAP program since its inception in 2007,” said Hostos Community College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.  “Increasing numbers of students are choosing this practical alternative, which allows them to combine full-time college attendance with work and other responsibilities. We believed that by providing students with resources such as free books, free transportation, reduced tuition, and sustained strategic counseling, ASAP could double their graduation rate. The most recent program evaluation shows that it did.”

“The core of ASAP’s approach – to provide personalized academic attention and student support through the Student Manager – has had such a powerful effect on the ASAP program that I became inspired to use the model as a keystone in our recently launched, college-wide Freshman Academies,” said Queensborough Community College President Eduardo J. Marti. 

“ASAP has been enormously successful at Kingsborough,” said Kingsborough Community College President Regina Peruggi.  “This unique model, which is centered around academic support, advisement, and employment services, can be transformative in not only accelerating graduation and increasing the number of graduates, but also in easing the transfer to a four-year college and the transition into the workforce.”

“From day one we dedicated key staff to our ASAP program. Moreover, our students have thrived through ASAP’s academic support, advisement and career services, while our staff has expanded its ability to provide a seamless array of services through professional development on issues such as supplemental instruction and collaborative learning,” said Borough of Manhattan Community College President Antonio Pérez.

“We are encouraged by the completion rates of the first group of ASAP students,” said Bronx Community College President Carolyn Williams. “We had 118 students enrolled in Liberal Arts, Business and Radiologic Technology programs, and of that number, 50 percent have already graduated. We know that the additional financial and academic support allowed students to take more classes and concentrate on their studies. We are also looking at the data to extract best practices and lessons learned in order to maximize the effectiveness of such interventions and to integrate those practices into our other programs.”

The ASAP program was launched in 2007 with $19.5 million in funding from the Center for Economic Opportunity.  Based on the program’s impressive two-year graduation outcomes, and its track record of strong program leadership, the Mayor has devoted an additional $6.5 million to the program.  In addition to the support from the City, a three-year, $3.7 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will support the program’s expansion and a five year research study of 900 low-income students who require developmental course work. The study will be led by MDRC — a leading social research and policy organization.  MDRC was also instrumental in obtaining an additional $1.1 million grant from the Robin Hood Foundation to help with the study and increase program enrollment. The $190,000 in funding provided by the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women will provide scholarships for high-achieving ASAP two-year graduates who matriculated to CUNY senior colleges.

 “We are very pleased with the success of the CUNY ASAP program, and congratulate the graduates on their accomplishments,” said the Helmsley Charitable Trust trustees.

“Robin Hood knows that education conquers poverty,” said David Saltzman, Robin Hood’s Executive Director.  So we’re delighted to help ASAP serve another 900 low-income students with remedial education needs.  Also, the program will be rigorously evaluated by MDRC - so we will learn for sure how much good our investment has created.”

“The Jewish Foundation for Education of Women proudly supports ASAP community college graduates who matriculate to senior colleges,” said Lizzie Leiman Kraiem, Executive Director of the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women. “Our partnership with CUNY directly furthers the Foundation’s mission to enable women with financial need to meet their education and career goals through scholarships and other supportive services.  Congratulations to ASAP’s staff, and especially to its graduates!”

The City University of New York Accelerated Study in Associate Programs is managed in partnership with the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, which was established by Mayor Bloomberg in 2006 to implement innovative ways to reduce poverty throughout the City. Supported by a combination of public and private funds, the Center for Economic Opportunity works with City agencies to design and implement evidence-based initiatives aimed at poverty reduction. The Center manages an Innovation Fund through which it provides City agencies annual funding to implement such initiatives and also oversees a rigorous evaluation of each to determine which are successful in demonstrating results towards reducing poverty and increasing self sufficiency among New Yorkers.

“The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs is one of the Center for Economic Opportunity’s early successes,” said Center for Economic Opportunity Executive Director Veronica M. White.  “Working together with the City University of New York, we have been able to demonstrate the strength of this program model and have developed an evidence base that we look forward to sharing with our colleagues nationwide.  We are pleased by the program’s outcomes, and wish graduates the best of luck.”

New Yorkers interested in learning more about the City’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs should visit or call 311.


Stu Loeser /Jessica Scaperotti (Mayor)   (212) 788-2958

Michael Arena (City University of New York)   (212) 794-5685

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