ASAP Students Before the New York City Council
O n December 12, 2007, a team from CUNY testified before the New York City Council Committee for Higher Education on the status of the ASAP program. Testimonies were delivered by Selma Botman, Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost; Annalisa Lewis, ASAP Director, LaGuardia Community College; Richard Rivera, ASAP Director, Kingsborough Community College; and Kevin Jones and Nathaniel Wheeler, ASAP Students, Borough of Manhattan Community College. Below is the transcript of former EVC Botman's testimony.
Thank you, Chairman Barron, and all of the members of the New York City Council Higher Education Committee, for this opportunity to share with you some of the recent accomplishments of the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, a visionary initiative at the City University of New York that City funding has made possible.
Before I begin, I would like to introduce my fellow CUNY representatives: Annalisa Lewis, Director of the ASAP Program at LaGuardia Community College in Queens; Richard Rivera, Director of the ASAP Program at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn; and Kevin Jones, a current ASAP student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in downtown Manhattan. We are here today to provide you with a clear picture of what this program is doing to transform community college education at CUNY and to express our gratitude for the support that the City has provided to enable this vital work.
Statistics tell us that, nationwide, only about 20% of community college students complete their degrees within six years. We are not satisfied with this, and cannot be complacent about it. If our community colleges function as holding patterns rather than as forces for educational and economic advancement, these institutions fail our students-jeopardizing not only our economy, but also their futures.
Nationally, no one has yet focused on creating new models for community college education. Last year, we at CUNY took a step back. We reflected critically on and reassessed our own community college system. We asked ourselves what factors hold our own community college students back. We examined census data to anticipate job demands for the coming decades to identify fields with long-term value to the economy and substantial earning potential for our graduates.
In ASAP, we have developed a resource-rich model program that removes traditional barriers and provides the support that community college students need to accelerate the course to graduation. As of Fall 2007, ASAP is running at all six CUNY community colleges. Ms. Annalisa Lewis and Mr. Richard Rivera will describe some of the program resources to you in fuller detail, but this brief sketch should give you a sense of ASAP's ambitious design:
- Block scheduling condenses coursework so that students can balance school, work, and family obligations.
- Tuition waivers (which cover the gap between financial aid awards and tuition fees), free metro cards, and use of free books reduce financial stress on students.
- Small classes, close-knit cohorts of students who move through the program together, tutoring, and intensive academic advising make for an enriched learning environment in which students feel a sense of belonging, focus, and motivation.
- Job development specialists help ASAP students find relevant employment to support themselves while in school and provide career counseling to prepare students for the transition to careers or higher studies for which they have been well-trained.
We have set a very high bar for ourselves. In Fall 2007, we exceeded our 1000-student target by enrolling 1132 young men and women. Our goal is to graduate 50% of these students in three years and 75% in four years. Though minority males are underrepresented in American higher education, almost half of our ASAP students are young men (46% male to 54% female), and about 80% of our students are from minority groups. Approximately 75% of ASAP students receive financial aid. Students have elected majors in such fields as Liberal Arts, Business Administration and Management, Community and Mental Health, Computer Engineering Technology, Radiologic Technology, and Early Childhood Education. The program is still young, but its students have developed strong community bonds and its faculty members are deeply engaged and enthusiastic. Mr. Kevin Jones is here to give you his own personal insight into the promise that the ASAP program represents to him and to his peers.
We would like to thank Mayor Bloomberg for including ASAP in the City's broader anti-poverty work through the Center for Economic Opportunity, and for their confidence in funding the program $6.5 million in the initial year. It is our hope that the evaluation process will highlight positive outcomes that will impact all City institutions.
ASAP funding is a continuation of all the good work and support that comes from the City Council. We are grateful for the Council's support of our community colleges, our Black Male Initiative, and many other programs. And ASAP is a natural progression in our attempt to create successful pathways for all students.
What we achieve and learn through the ASAP model, we will apply to the broader community college population at CUNY. This positions us to become a key model for a transformed approach to community college education nationwide. Through our combined efforts, CUNY and the City of New York will remain national leaders in urban public higher education. We at CUNY thank you and your colleagues on the City Council most sincerely for your wisdom and foresight in supporting our important mission.