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This Community College Program Dramatically Raises Graduation Rates


In a few months, Bronx native Kimberly Blanco will graduate from LaGuardia Community College, fulfilling a promise she made to herself when her daughter was born two years ago: “If I’m bringing a kid into this world, I need to give him a better future.” Previously, Blanco had attended college, but found the costs of childcare and tuition and books hard to overcome. But in in 2015, CUNY (City University of New York) officials launched a new program called ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) to target low-income students like Blanco.

The program provides tuition assistance, unlimited metro cards, and opportunities to take classes in the winter and summer. Currently, 21,000 students are enrolled. Across the country, there are 1400 community colleges with nearly 6.5 million students. But until recently, just 20 percent of students pursuing an associates degree graduate within three years. In 2014, ASAP students doubled that rate.

One key factor: A commitment to what they call “intrusive advising.” It means that CUNY advisors are stuck like glue to their students—calling, texting, and hosting in-person meetings to ensure they have everything they need to succeed. And the numbers show it works.

Watch this What Works Media Project documentary produced by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien to find out more!