Volume 1 / Issue 5

Mentor Connection Celebrates a Successful First Year!

Mentor Connection Retreat

On April 17th, Mentor Connection celebrated a successful pilot year by hosting a year-end retreat for students and faculty mentors at the Field Museum. The event was a rare opportunity for pilot participants from both pilot colleges, Olive-Harvey and Truman, to gather together to meet one another and share their mentoring experiences.

The retreat itself served as an extension of the mentoring that faculty have been engaged in with students over the past two semesters. Dr. Mohamed El-Maazawi provided a detailed presentation on how students can find and land competitive research opportunities and internships, emphasizing the level of planning that is necessary for success.  This was followed by Dr. Oliver Pergams’s presentation on techniques for refining one’s career choice. Students and mentors were also treated to a showing of the latest Mentor Connection video followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s research facilities and specimen libraries led by Dr. Bruce Patterson, Field Museum Mammals curator and MacArthur Genius Fellow, who took the group into the institution’s vast collection that is held for scientific research.

FullSizeRender (4)
Dr. Patterson showing specimens

Celebrating the year-long efforts of students and mentors at the Field Museum was fitting, as it emphasized the shared purpose of our two organizations to nurture and develop the human capital of the City of Chicago. This rings particularly true for Mentor Connection’s own Kyle Reid, a native Chicagoan and Olive-Harvey student who prior to his internship with Dr. Bruce Patterson did not own a passport, but shortly after found himself on a flight to Costa Rice with Duke University to spend the summer researching bats. With the success of a first pilot year under its belt and the impact already visible, Mentor Connection is excited to grow to Harold Washington College in Fall 2015, with plans for expanding to the other City Colleges in the works as well.

The Mentor Connection team would like to thank the Field Museum’s Dr. John Bates for hosting and giving this special opportunity to our students and faculty, Mary Johnson for all of her coordination assistance, and Dr. Bruce Patterson for his generosity of time and knowledge during the retreat.

For more information regarding how to participate in Mentor Connection, please visit:

     – Joan Lee, Project Team Leader, Center for Operational Excellence

Student Experience – Assessment

This is the third installment in a series of posts describing the transformative work of the Student Experience project. Building on Student GPS and Pathways, the Student Experience project will dramatically change how students experience City Colleges, beginning with Wright College in Fall 2015. The first two posts introduced the project and laid out the framework for a new in-take process. In this installment we talk about assessing the capabilities of incoming students and providing them with the best possible courses and supports to be successful.

How can we utilize the expertise of our faculty and staff to:

  • Evaluate our students’ academic and non-academic strengths and needs
  • Establish working collaborative relationships with students to provide assistance
  • Create actionable strategies to help students – regardless of their level of academic preparation – navigate their entry into college more successfully

We can do this by developing an assessment and placement method for new-to-credit students that will replace the current high-stakes placement test (COMPASS). Instead of a sudden and not always comprehensible standardized test following an on-campus orientation, students will have the opportunity to take their assessments on-line, at any time and to spend as much time preparing as they would like. In addition to assessing for core competencies in English and Math, we will include a set of questions about students’ educational experiences, background, goals and attitudes towards learning.

This will give us the opportunity to gain a more thorough understanding of our students, which will better enable us to collaboratively provide interventions that lead to student success. Students will benefit not only by being placed appropriately but by having the supports they need in order to succeed in college.

An incredible team of people from English, Math, Student Services and the Dean of Instruction’s office have come together to help students begin their educational journeys with the right tools and clear direction. Much hard work has been done in a short period of time so that we can be ready for students who come to us this spring to prepare for attending in fall. There are so many people to thank – if this were the Oscars they would be pulling me off the stage!

  • Kevin Li, Dean of Instruction
  • Pat Micelli, Co-chair, Math department
  • Victoria Polotsky, Co-chair, Math department
  • Daniel Borzutzky, Co-chair, English department
  • Susan Grace, English faculty
  • Robert Beckman, Testing Coordinator
  • Maurice Givens, Math faculty
  • Val Dragos, Math faculty
  • Ernie Berman, former Math chair (Truman)
  • Helen Doss, English faculty
  • Bill Marsh, English faculty
  • Kim Knutson, English faculty
  • Julia Cohen, English faculty
  • Cydney Topping, English faculty
  • Janet Knapp-Caporale, English faculty

     – Sherri Farris, Project Team Leader, Center for Operational Excellence

Reinvention Team Member Spotlight

Jim Lacy

College: Malcolm X College
College Position:
Reinvention Role:
Task Force Member
Worked with CCC for:
Five years
Current Reinvention Project: 
Star Scholarship and Mentor Connection

Why did you choose to work at CCC?
I chose to work at CCC because I felt I was able to more directly help student’s achieve their goals. I had worked as a librarian at several universities in Chicago and while I would receive research questions with regularity, in comparison I get a lot more questions and felt much more useful to City College students. To be able to introduce students to their college library as a tool and a resource and to see those students then use the library on a regular basis is always rewarding. 

What has been your experience with Reinvention?
I’ve had a great experience working with Reinvention. I’ve been fortunate with great supervisors, Dan Dutchak and Joan Lee who have kept me challenged and trusted me with large projects, and also great coworkers who are always there to work through ideas and problems, and to crack some jokes.

What are some of the big changes you’ve personally experienced in your time at CCC?
Seeing the academic pathways and College to Career initiatives take root has probably been the biggest change I’ve seen and has far reaching impact on how our institution conducts itself, as well as a large impact on our students providing clear and straightforward guidance to achieving their academic and career goals

What are you most excited about seeing changed?
I’m excited to explore the new Malcolm X College campus when it’s completed as well as Olive Harvey College’s new Transportation, Distribution, Logistics building. I think these updated facilities will be a great source of pride for students, faculty, and staff, and will allow everyone to do their jobs even better.

What is one thing you still feel really needs to change at CCC?
I still think CCC needs a more effective approach to its Developmental Education program. A majority of our students have to take at least one Developmental-level class which then prepares them for college credit level course work. It’s a difficult problem to tackle and CCC to its credit is constantly experimenting with new approaches and strategies, but with no easy answers it’s an area that could stand to change.

If you could pick anyone to learn from who would it be?
I’d pick Harold Washington. His ability to communicate and build bridges to different communities, the way he could keep his cool and get things done under constant pressure and abuse, I think he’d have a lot of practical knowledge to impart.  

What do you feel most proud of at CCC?
I feel proud to be able to work with so many great students, faculty, and staff from all across our District. To be able to form relationships with so many people from throughout the city, I get to learn so much from so many different perspectives and backgrounds, it’s really helped develop my worldview and feel connected to the entire city and not just my neighborhood.

MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses)

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are open access courses, often open to an unlimited number of participants, which deliver course materials and provide for interactive student participation via the internet¹. In the last several years, large MOOC providers have sprung up including Coursera and edX that offer MOOCs in partnership with major Universities from around the world usually for free. However, the vast majority of the MOOCs being offered by the major providers do not allow students to earn college credit, which may help explain the fact that MOOCs have very low completion rates².

For Credit MOOCs
While most MOOCs are non-credit, open access courses, a few colleges have experimented with integrating MOOCs into their credit programs. Here are a three examples:

  • Arizona State University and edX just launched the Global Freshman Academy which offers a full year of freshman for-credit MOOCs and does not require an application. There is a $45 registration fee for each course and one credit hour will cost no more than $200.
  • In 2013, San Jose State University partnered with Udacity³ to offer several for-credit MOOC courses but ended the partnership after the courses achieved low pass rates4.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Udacity, and AT&T partnered to create a Masters Degree in Computer Science using MOOCs that costs students considerably less than an in-person degree.

MOOCs and Community Colleges
There has some initial experimentation with MOOCs in the community college sphere as well:

  • Two Massachusetts Community Colleges partnered with MIT to offer for credit computer programming courses using a flipped classroom approach that combined material from an MIT MOOC with in-class sessions at each community college.
  • Wake Tech Community College and Cuyahoga Community College both created non-credit MOOCs aimed at helping development education students more quickly become college ready

Do you think MOOC’s are here to stay or do you think they are a fad that will fade? Are MOOCs right for CCC?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

     – Aaron Feinstein, Project Team Leader, Center for Operational Excellence


1Techoppedia, Definition – Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) , accessed March 31, 2015,
2Ry Rivard, “Measuring the MOOC Dropout Rate,” Inside Higher Ed, March 8, 2013, accessed March 31, 2015,
3Another prominent MOOC provider that focuses more on credentialing programs than Coursera and edX
4Carla Rivera, “San Jose State will scale back online collaboration,” Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2013, accessed March 31, 2015, 
5Carl Straumsheim, “One down, many to go,” Inside Higher Ed, June 6, 2014, accessed March 31, 2015,
6Ed Finkel, “How did the pilot MOOCs turn out?” Community College Daily, October 18, 2013, accessed March 31, 2015,


Volume 1 / Issue 4

Student Experience Project FAQs

In previous Reinvention Updates we’ve introduced the Student Experience work currently underway at Wright College.  As the work there progresses, questions about the project have arisen. These FAQs are an effort to further explain the current work and future plans.

What is the Student Experience project and why is it important?

The Student Experience initiative aims to change and greatly improve the community college experience for students. City Colleges of Chicago wants to provide its students with the most efficient, rewarding and supportive path to college and career success.

The Student Experience begins with how we respond to prospective students, register and welcome new students, and work with students as individuals to help them define and achieve their goals. We want the expertise of our faculty and staff and the insights of our four-year college and employer partners – not standardized tests – to guide our students’ paths both inside and outside of the classroom and give them the best opportunity to succeed.

This initiative addresses the need to improve outcomes for our students. Nearly 90 percent of students arrive to City Colleges requiring some type of developmental coursework. Previous initiatives were not sufficiently scaled to drastically change the outcomes for these students. The Student Experience initiative will reconceive student onboarding, placement and supports to help move students into college-level work sooner and improve overall outcomes.

When will the Student Experience project be implemented?

To provide students with the benefits of the Student Experience initiative as soon as possible, the project team will begin to implement the plan in Fall 2015. As the work progresses, the project team will review and assess the project, adjusting the timeline, as needed.

Is there a plan to roll this out to the rest of CCC?

Yes, after implementing the Student Experience Project at Wright College we hope to implement this project model at the other colleges in waves. The second wave of implementation after Wright will be for Spring 2016 and will impact Olive-Harvey and Kennedy-King Colleges. We then hope to implement the model at Harold Washington, Truman, Daley and Malcolm X for Fall 2016. This is a tentative timeline and may be modified if needed.

Who is leading the Student Experience project?

The project is being jointly led by a team of faculty and staff from Wright College and members of City Colleges’ Reinvention team.

What has been faculty involvement in the process?

Faculty has been involved in Reinvention from the very beginning, taking part on taskforces and leading initiatives such as the tenure project.  About 100 faculty members have together spent thousands of hours working to devise solutions to City Colleges’ biggest challenges. The Student Experience effort is a continuation of our ongoing Reinvention. Work on the project is being conducted in teams made up mostly of Wright faculty, staff, and administrators, with support from members of City Colleges’ Reinvention team. The Wright team members are providing the expertise in instruction, outreach, student communications, recruiting, and more. Specifically, English and Math faculty are developing curricular models to provide instruction and instructional support that helps to accelerate students into college-level courses sooner. The Reinvention staff members are providing guidance and support with overall project management.

How is this different from AQIP First Year experience?

The First Year Experience (FYE) is part of AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Plan) and while it shares some of the same goals, the current Student Experience Program encompasses a broader scope and is being done on a larger scale. The First Year Experience has only been implemented at Wright and is offered specifically to first year students working to meet the following goals:

  1. Assist new students in their transition to college
  2. Introduce new students to the intellectual and academic life of college
  3. Help new students develop a sense of community and establish academic and personal goals for success

The Student Experience Project will also be working to meet these goals but will focus on moving students along a clear pathway more quickly and ensuring they receive a credential of economic value by improving onboarding, placement and student supports.

How do I voice my feedback/concerns about the Student Experience initiative?

To follow progress, subscribe to the Center for Operational Excellence (COE) blog; or subscribe to the Wright College blog;

Questions, comments, and concerns can always be voiced via the Student Experience mailbox ( This mailbox is monitored daily by the project team.

In our next issue…

In our next issue, look for an update on the Mentor Connection year-end retreat.  Mentors and mentees from the pilot colleges met at the Field Museum to discuss opportunities available for student advancement. We’ll also share updates on other projects underway across the district.

     – Scott Martyn, Associate Vice Chancellor, Strategy

Reinvention Team Member Spotlight

Chanell R. Harris-Smith

Kennedy King College

Subject(s) Taught:
LevelUp Writing and Reading, FS Writing /Reading, English 098, 100, 101, 102 and 121

Reinvention Role:
Admissions Specialist/Part-time Faculty for 5 years with CCC, Reinvention Team Member since August 2014

Why did you choose to work at CCC?
CCC gave me my first opportunity to teach at the college level when I completed my MFA though I didn’t end up teaching the first class I was offered. After teaching in some SMHEC (Southern Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium) schools, I desired to return to the city and work with students from Chicago. I was a reverse transfer student and found my feet as a college student at Daley College. I suppose part of me wanted to engage in the proverbial “giving back”. A dean, who had been my professor during my undergraduate years, officially hired me in 2009. I remained at OH until 2013. Since 2009, I have taught at HW, DA, OH and KKC.

What has been your experience with Reinvention?
Reinvention has definitely stretched my abilities and perspective. I have learned so much and feel that I have been an integral part of the ever changing process and watched and helped projects grow. As an instructor, it has been so easy to be in a bubble, where I feel all I need to control is inside my classroom. Through my position in Admissions, I was able to learn the process by which a student becomes a student and have been able to share that experience here. We have learned how grueling the enrollment process can be. I now have a hand in making it welcoming and more effective for our students. So, my experience has been highly rewarding.

What are some of the big changes you’ve personally experienced in your time at CCC?
When I started in Admissions, students always wanted to see what classes they needed to take in their program of interest. In the summer of 2013, and beyond, I would give students the printable brochure available on the website. It was several pages of courses but did not factor in Dev Ed classes and if the student had placed into them, they could not see where they fit in the program. The document did not guide the students either. Now, with pathways, all students can see the finish line and exactly how to get there. Semester maps are available online and are a valuable tool for students, admissions specialists and advisors to get students interested and keep them focused. Today, the two documents work together and the student is totally informed.

What are you most excited about seeing changed?
I will be so thrilled to see the onboarding process change so that students feel excited about beginning their education and careers with us. I know that with these changes student perceptions of CCC will change and I will be excited to see that.

What is one thing you still feel really needs to change at CCC?
I think we all need to work on how we view and treat out student body. Our students are highly motivated, resourceful, critical and fearless yet vulnerable. We need to more effectively capture and capitalize on these qualities and help our students be successful. They are ours because they need us. Sometimes we fail at treating them like they are ours.

If you could pick anyone to learn from who would it be?
I would choose to be a mentee of “The Artist Currently Known as Prince”. Prince embodies the perfect blend of the creative and business side. He is as cool as a fan in any situation and apparently has found the fountain of youth. When I saw him in concert last summer, the Superdome went crazy over all of his 30 year old songs. That shows his brilliance, relatability and relevance. We should all strive to make a difference like that in whatever craft we choose.

What do you feel most proud of at CCC?
I am proud that we are a beacon of hope and light for so many students, and that we help to enrich their lives in so many ways. I am proud of KKC, my home campus, for being a gem in a troubled and vulnerable community and for being prize-worthy in the midst of it all. I am proud of the work we do every day, as individuals and a collective unit.

CCC Faculty, Staff and Students… Join Reinvention for Fall 2015

Join a Reinvention team for the fall semester 2015.  We have opportunities both at the district office (Reinvention) and at the colleges to work with your colleagues to be a part of the change that’s moving City Colleges of Chicago forward.  For fall, our top priority project focuses on developing a new way to admit, orient, and assess students and then deliver remedial education in a way that allows most students to earn college credit in math and/or English in their first semester at CCC.

Related work continues in other Student GPS areas including all aspects of student intake, supports and completion. Our focus will include admissions, registration, new approaches to student support and models for group and faculty mentoring of students.

All of this work builds on the reform efforts of faculty, staff and students from all seven colleges who have been on Reinvention teams over the past years. To learn more about Reinvention’s work during that time, visit or if you have specific questions, email us at

Interested in joining a Reinvention team for the fall 2015 semester? Applications are now being accepted from all interested City College faculty, staff and students. Apply soon—the deadline is Friday, April 30th.

To apply, send an email to Identify your areas of interest from the list above and include the following in your email;

  • A brief biography or résumé describing your skill set as it pertains to your preferred projects.
  • Five ideas to address the challenges within your preferred projects.
  • Your contact information (phone and email) so that we can follow up with you.

A Preliminary Scan of the Supports Available to Help Chicago’s Students Succeed in College

Last month the College and Career Access, Persistence and Success (CCAPS) group, sponsored by the Donors Forum, published A Report on Chicago’s College and Career Access, Persistence and Success Landscape.  Part of the mission of the Donors Forum is to be “the premier resource for networking and education, information and knowledge, and leadership and advocacy on behalf of philanthropy and nonprofits in Illinois.”  Their report is a preliminary scan of services and supports that enable Chicago students to achieve postsecondary success.  It is intended as a starting point, leading to additional research and greater insights.

A Report on Chicago's College and Career Access, Persistence, and Success Landscape
A Report on Chicago’s College and Career Access, Persistence, and Success Landscape

The scan involved a survey of schools (including charter and private), non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, and funders.  The data collected was intentionally limited in order to generate the initial scan and start the conversations around what additional information could be collected that would have the potential for impacting college and career success.  As a preliminary scan, it does not attempt to answer the questions about what actions to take but rather about what additional information is needed.

I’ve had the honor of participating as a member of the Advisory Committee for the CCAPS report and joining in the conversation around Chicago students’ postsecondary success.  While the findings are preliminary, the work of CCAPS compliments other work currently underway by organizations including Thrive Chicago and the Chicago Collaborative for Undergraduate Success.  In each of these endeavors, the theme is collaboration.  To achieve the best outcomes for students across Chicago, we need to have schools, colleges, support organizations and funders working together.  We’ve made great strides in this direction in recent years and the work of the CCAPS group is another move toward greater support for students.

Read the report and let us know what you think!

     – Scott Martyn, Associate Vice Chancellor, Strategy


Volume 1 / Issue 3

Student Experience – Student Onboarding

In a previous post, we announced an exciting new project – one built upon the foundation and success of Student GPS and the Pathways. The project, currently entitled the Student Experience, is focused on just that: transforming the student experience throughout the entire life cycle – from the point of application submission all the way through graduation day.

There are many components to the Student Experience, but it seems appropriate to start at the beginning of the student life cycle with the in-take process – otherwise known as onboarding. We specifically focus on the first question introduced in our earlier Student Experience post:

How do we develop a new student in-take process that:

  1. helps faculty and staff understand a student’s goals, constraints, and preferences;
  2. sets clear expectations, and;
  3. is actionable for individual students.

In addition to the work being guided by the question above, project team members have also sought to ensure all onboarding experiences are ones that provide each student an interaction and environment that is both welcoming and encouraging.

One way we have started to put this philosophy into action has been by calling each and every student who has been accepted to Wright College for the fall 2015 semester. The purpose of each call is to establish a relationship with students through the gathering of course scheduling preferences, answering any questions a student may have about the City Colleges of Chicago, and extending a sincere congratulations on being accepted to Wright College. In collaboration with Wright staff and members of the Call Center, over 1000 calls have been attempted. For those students we have been able to reach so far there has been a positive response provided at the conclusion of each conversation: approximately 78% of students have indicated an intent to attend Wright College.

Although far from finished, we are excited with the progress that has been made and look forward to providing future updates related to the invaluable and rewarding work the onboarding team is committed to.

Special thanks for Linda Huertas, Associate Dean, Student Services, Wright College for being an amazing co-lead and for our beyond fabulous members of the core onboarding team:

  • Chanell Harris, Reinvention team member, Admissions Specialist, Kennedy-King College
  • Allison Zures, Executive Director, Career Planning and Placement
  • Giovani Toledo, College Clerical Assistant, Wright College
  • Danielle Haas, Director, Financial Aid, Wright College

     – Heather Labelle, Project Team Lead, Center for Operational Excellence

Reinvention Team Member Spotlight

Sergio Lemus

College: Harold Washington College
Subject(s) taught:
Cultural Anthropology and Social Science
Reinvention Role:
Task Force Member
Worked with CCC for:
Five years
Current Reinvention Project:
Network Footprint and English Co-requisite Model

Why did you choose to work at CCC?
I choose to work at the City Colleges of Chicago because I firmly believe that each campus embodies the essence of their surrounding community. Growing up near Olive Harvey College; for example, I would hear of family members attending ESL classes, and of friends getting their CDL (Commercial Driving License). As I was earning my doctoral degree in Anthropology, I saw that I can be part of the CCC community, through teaching students at Harold Washington College.

What has been your experience with Reinvention?
For me, it has been and continues to be a privilege to be part of this city wide, amazing undertaking in transforming how we think, do, and envision college education. Being at Reinvention has given me the opportunity to reinvent myself, to learn new skills that I never thought I would use, and to believe that change for the better is possible.

What are some of the big changes you’ve personally experienced in your time at CCC?
I saw a genuine interest from faculty, administrators, and staff to explore a range of possibilities in order to offer to students the best possible education while attending the City Colleges of Chicago.

What are you most excited about seeing changed?
I am most excited about aligning our educational opportunities with what employers look for in recent graduates. I think that there is not a better feeling than getting a job with the education obtained.

What is one thing you still feel really needs to change at CCC?
I think we need to seriously reflect on whether we are performing to the best of our abilities in our different roles, whether be a faculty member, administrator or supporting staff. Reinvention drives change, and while humans are naturally resistant to embrace it, in order to reach new limits, we would only get there by not adhering to tradition and educational orthodoxy.

What do you feel most proud of at CCC?
The students. While we are here crafting their opportunities, they are at each of their colleges doing their best to get their credential of economic value. They battle the Chicago harsh winter and summer seasons, find cash to take the bus or eat lunch from class to class, and strive to become the best in their class.

15 to Finish Update

Almost a year ago, Reinvention launched the 15-to-Finish initiative to promote a cultural shift, where full-time students choose to enroll in at least 15 hours per semester, instead of the minimum of 12 hours.
The rationale for the change was simple: full-time CCC students were not completing their degrees within two years because they weren’t taking enough credit hours per semester. By only enrolling in 12 hours, even students at the highest level of readiness needed three years to accumulate the 60-68 credits needed earn a CCC degree. And, considering that many students coming to CCC have developmental education needs, change focus areas, and/or do poorly in a course, the time to complete a degree for many students is longer than three years.
We knew that changing to a culture where 15 hours is full-time would be difficult and require excellent communication. Generally, the faculty and staff have supported the initiative; however, some were rightly concerned that not all students would not be able to succeed with the increased workload. To address the concern, the Decision Support team performed an analysis to help us better understand the academic outcomes for CCC students who take 12-14 hours vs. those taking 15+ hours. They found that students who enroll in 15+ credits:

  • Are more likely to earn a credential within 3 years, more likely to transfer, and are less likely to drop out
  • Are significantly more likely to graduate across every remedial need category
  • Have greater cumulative GPAs across remedial needs, age, and financial needs

The findings were compelling so we created incentives for students to jumpstart the change. The trends in the data for CCC students suggested that they tend to be price sensitive and highly value their financial aid refunds – in other words, more credit hours = less financial aid refund. So we created a simple incentive for students who were willing to invest in taking 15+ hours by providing a summer tuition and fee waiver (up to $750).
As of today, we have over 700 applicants for the waiver and have over 1300 students who qualify for this waiver. This is a significant increase over last year:

  • # of students enrolled in 15+ credit hours increased 26% for fall and 7% for spring
  • % of students enrolled in 15+ credit hours increased 31% for fall and 15% for spring
  • % of CCC full-time Credit students enrolled in 15+ credit hours increased 37% for fall and 25% for spring

The increase in the number of full-time students enrolling in 15+ credits and succeeding is exciting. In the coming year, we hope to build on this work and create additional incentives to get even more students to enroll in 15+ hours and see even better student outcomes.

     – Richard Chandler, Executive Director-Strategic Planning, Center for Operational Excellence

MDRC Review of CUNY’s Accelerated Study Programs

Doubling the Graduation Rate (Again)

Begun in 2007, the City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) is aimed at helping students earn associate degrees within three years of entering college by providing them more support than traditional community college students. In order to participate in ASAP, students must commit to:

  • Attending college full-time (12 credits per semester)
  • Maintaining a 2.0 Grade Point Average
  • Taking remedial courses immediately (Students needing more than two semesters of remediation are not eligible for ASAP)
  • Attending mandatory meetings with advisors, career counselors, and tutors
  • Taking the ASAP Student Success Seminar (Similar to CCC’s College Success Course)

In exchange for these commitments, ASAP provides students with several financial incentives:

  • Free tuition – Any tuition not covered by financial aid is covered by a tuition waiver
  • Free Transit Cards
  • Free Textbooks

And substantial support services including:

  • Structured pathways to degrees
  • Blocked scheduling and a first-year learning community
  • Counseling from advisors with small caseloads (no more than 150 students per advisor)

Thus, ASAP combines several initiatives that we have put into practice at CCC, including pathways and learning communities. It then adds a substantial financial investment in the form of enhanced support services and tuition waivers.

So the key questions is: Does the investment pay off?

The answer is a resounding yes!

MDRC, a highly-respected program evaluation firm, has been studying ASAP for several years and just completed a randomized trial of its impact on students needing remedial coursework. They found that ASAP nearly doubled the graduation rate for remedial students, graduating 40 percent of ASAP students compared to 22 percent for traditional students.

Just as impressive, MDRC found that the cost per degree was less for ASAP students than traditional students because even though the program is more expensive per student, so many more students graduate.

MDRC concludes with the dramatic statement that “ASAP’s effects are the largest MDRC has found in any of its evaluations of community college reform.”

As we look at the efforts of other community colleges around the country to identify practices that might help CCC students achieve, CUNY ASAP is certainly one of the most promising models we have come across.

For more information: Read the MDRC study here and visit the ASAP website.

     – Aaron Feinstein, Project Team Leader, Center for Operational Excellence