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Scalable Success

It’s not hard to find reports, here and elsewhere, about pilot programs and experiments at community colleges that improve the success rates of students. However, it’s more problematic when you try to go large. The closest we come to scalable strategies here in Texas might be Guided Pathways and outcomes-based funding. We might also consider examining the impact of present changes in developmental education such as co-requisite remediation.

However, a program initiated in New York City, called ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs), has attracted nationwide attention, launching similar initiatives in many diverse states and localities.

Here is a brief description of the concept, provided by Brian Jacob, in Education Next:

The ASAP program seeks to address multiple barriers to community college completion simultaneously. Students in the program must enroll full time in an Associate Degree program. They receive free tuition and textbooks as well as a MetroCard to access the city’s subway and bus system. They attend classes in cohorts designed to provide a sense of community, and are provided with frequent, personalized advising and (if necessary) tutoring.

Please read the entire article for descriptions of how it works in other states. One might presume the deal-breaker in Texas would be the requirement of full-time enrollment. (Also, AA degrees might preclude participation by students in workforce training.) But you will notice that many of our students work in low-paying jobs while enrolled in a class or two. The odds that these individuals will graduate are daunting. If financial aid programs could be dialed up, allowing more community college students to attend full-time, evidence cited in the article indicates that it pays off for everyone, including taxpayers.

Okay, the Metro Card in NYC may not have an equivalent in most of Texas, but all our big cities have serviceable public transit, and gasoline vouchers are often mentioned as a possibility for those in rural areas. With Open Educational Resources, textbooks are free or nearly free.

Obviously, providing intense advisement, mentoring, and tutoring for students will cost money. But we will not see large, universal gains in student success until we decide to go large.

ASAP looks like a winner.

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