Metis Associates and the City University of New York (CUNY) joined forces to rigorously evaluate Accelerate, Complete, Engage (ACE), the baccalaureate version of the highly successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), a comprehensive program that supports students in reaching their graduation goals. ASAP has demonstrated remarkable success in helping associate degree-seeking students graduate on time, doubling the rate at which students earn degrees.
ACE aims to double four-year bachelor’s graduation rates by providing ASAP-like resources to remove barriers to full-time study, build academic momentum, and create a connected community. The following comprehensive matrix of support and resources is more critical than ever to ensure timely degree completion.
- COST-FREE. ACE provides several incentives to remove financial barriers to full-time college study. Students eligible for financial aid receive tuition and fee gap scholarships. All students also receive unlimited New York City MTA MetroCards and assistance to help reduce (or eliminate) the cost of textbooks.
- COMPREHENSIVE AND PERSONALIZED ADVISEMENT. ACE students are assigned an experienced academic advisor who regularly meets with them and provides comprehensive academic, social, and personal support.
- INDIVIDUALIZED COURSE SCHEDULE. Each college provides a range of scheduling options designed so that ACE students can attend classes in a convenient morning, afternoon, or evening block of time compatible with their demanding schedules.
- CONNECTED COMMUNITY. ACE students can take first-year classes with groups of fellow ACE students. This course-taking opportunity helps students to build their network and develop close and supportive relationships with peers and instructors. Students also participate in group advisement and engagement activities.
- ACADEMIC SUPPORT SERVICES. Throughout the academic year, skilled tutors are available to give ACE students an added academic boost and to help them realize their full potential. Many ACE programs also have dedicated space for homework assistance, study groups, and scheduled review sessions for individual courses.
- FOSTER YOUTH SUPPORT SERVICES. ACE supports students currently or formerly in foster care. These supports include but are not limited to college application fee waivers, housing information, connection to dedicated campus representatives for foster youth-related issues, access to CUNY’s Fostering Youth College Success Initiative, and more.
- CAREER DEVELOPMENT. ACE career specialists are available at each college and work closely with academic advisors to guide students toward developing career goals and competencies. They facilitate skill-building workshops and direct students to experiences that will increase their industry knowledge and specific career tracks.
Based on the impressive outcomes of ASAP, CUNY has implemented the model at six senior colleges, aiming to achieve similar outcomes for bachelor’s degree-seeking students. Early results from a propensity-score analysis found promising effects on retention, credit accumulation, and graduation. To more rigorously evaluate whether ACE is effective at improving four-year and five-year graduation rates, a team of researchers at Metis Associates and CUNY is conducting a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) study of the program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Below we present highlights from the April 2023 report.
- Overall, the study found a sizeable impact on four-year graduation rates – ACE students graduated at a higher rate than the control group (59% vs. 46%). Graduation rates for both groups were higher than the four-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time freshmen at John Jay for recent cohorts.
- Effects for Hispanic or Latino/a, Black, White, and Asian or Pacific Islander students were close in size (ranging from 17 to 20 percentage points), suggesting the program had similar impacts on students in different race/ethnicity groups.
- Persistence rates going into the fifth year were very high relative to overall rates at the college (79% for the program group and 76% for the control group), with no significant difference between the study groups.
- Over 85% of students who remained in the program each semester met one-on-one with their ACE advisor at least four times per semester.
In spring 2018, 570 students meeting the program eligibility criteria (i.e., NYC residence, proficiency in math or reading, FAFSA completion, and full-time enrollment) were recruited to participate in the study and randomly assigned to the program or control group with a 50:50 ratio. Baseline equivalence analysis confirmed that the two groups were equivalent across all key variables at the start of the study. To investigate the impact on the target student outcomes, intention-to-treat analyses were conducted using logistic regressions with an analytic dataset created from two data sources: (1) the CUNY Institutional Research Database; and (2) the National Student Clearinghouse. The full regression models included a comprehensive list of study participant pre-program characteristics for further statistical control.
This study has shown that the ACE program overall has demonstrated a statistically significant and substantively important positive impact on four-year graduation, underscoring the value of the program and its comprehensive support and confirming that the ACE model works for bachelor’s degree-seeking students as well. Moreover, the high graduation rates and persistence rates are especially impressive given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during the student’s second year in college. Four-year graduation is a key outcome for ACE as it represents the “on-time” graduation rate. However, the final report from the study will include five-year graduation rates to more fully understand the program’s effect on degree attainment. The results from this study contribute to and expand the robust evidence base that the ASAP|ACE model is an effective student success strategy and a valuable approach beyond the community college sector.