Expanding a Successful Reform for Increasing Graduation Rates: The Continuing Story of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)

Expanding a Successful Reform for Increasing Graduation Rates: The Continuing Story of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)
Expanding a Successful Reform for Increasing Graduation Rates: The Continuing Story of CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP)


This event was co-sponsored by MDRC. Our first panel included Sue Scrivener, Senior Associate, MDRC; Donna Linderman, University Associate Dean for Student Success Initiatives, CUNY; and Loukman Lamany, Bronx ASAP grad and Baruch College grad. They provided an overview of CUNY ASAP and MDRC’s recent evaluation. Founded in 2007 with support from the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), CUNY ASAP is a structured degree pathway program for associate degree-seeking students currently found at six community colleges. Key program components include full-time enrollment, block scheduled first-year courses, cohort course taking by major, financial support, intrusive and mandatory advisement, a student-success seminar, career services, and tutoring. ASAP targets low-income students with some developmental needs and consistently realizes two and three-year graduation rates that are more than double those of similar comparison group students.

ASAP has garnered national attention as a result of rigorous evaluation by CUNY and external researchers. Since 2007, ASAP has served more than 6,400 students across seven cohorts. The program has just completed a multi-year expansion that will bring total enrollment to 4,400 students at seven CUNY colleges in fall 2014.  CUNY recently received new funding from the City of New York ($35 million over the next three years) that will further expand ASAP to 13,000 students by fall 2016. CUNY has also entered into a partnership with MDRC, the Ohio Board of Regents, and the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation to support an ASAP replication demonstration project in Ohio.

The responding panel included Brett Visger, Associate Vice Chancellor, Institutional Collaboration & Completion, Ohio Board of Regents; Dr. Belinda Miles, President, Cuyahoga Community College; Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); and Ajita Menon, Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Respondents discussed the role of policy and challenges of scalability.

Presenters Included:

Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Loukman Lamany Bronx ASAP/Baruch College

Donna Linderman University Associate Dean for Student Success Initiatives, CUNY

Ajita Menon Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education at the White House Domestic Policy Council

Dr. Belinda Miles President, Cuyahoga Community College

Sue Scrivener Senior Associate, MDRC 

Brett Visger Associate Vice Chancellor, Institutional Collaboration & Completion, Ohio Board of Regents

Presenter Biographies

Amy Ellen Photo formatted Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield is a senior policy analyst at CLASP. Ms. Duke-Benfield’s focus is access to and success in postsecondary education and training for low-income students. She analyzes and advocates for federal and state workforce and education policies that better serve low-income adults and provides technical assistance to federal, state and local advocates and governments in these areas.  She also directs CLASP’s Benefits Access for College Completion initiative, which seeks to increase access to public benefits and financial aid for low-income students at colleges across the country. Prior to this project, she spearheaded CLASP’s work around the Higher Education Act and related federal postsecondary legislation, as well as Title II of the Workforce Investment Act (the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act). Previously, Ms. Duke-Benfield was a research associate at the Urban Institute where she contributed to several evaluations of state-level welfare reform and anti-poverty programs. She holds an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and a master’s degree from Emory University.

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Loukman Lamany is a native of Togo. When he arrived in the United States in 2004, he wanted to go to college right away, but he could not afford the expenses. He worked as a retail clerk, waiter, and even sold DVDs on the streets of Harlem. In 2009, he was admitted to Accelerated Studies in Associate Program (ASAP) at Bronx Community College. With the financial burden of college was taken care of by ASAP, he was able to focus on his studies, improve his English, and became involved in his college and neighborhood community. Loukman graduated from Bronx Community College in 2011 with an associate degree in business administration and went on to earn his bachelor’s in Management-Entrepreneurship with a focus on Small Business Management from Baruch College in 2014. He is currently a Business Development Analyst at the New York Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) in Manhattan.

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Donna Linderman directly oversees Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which, under her leadership has become nationally recognized and is regularly cited as one of the most successful community college programs in the country. As of 2014/15, ASAP enrolls 4,300 at seven colleges and is expected to expand to 13,000 students by 2016/17.

Her portfolio includes oversight of CUNY Start, a pre-matriculation program for students with high remedial needs at seven CUNY colleges. Donna has supported the program’s expansion to 3,800 students between 2011-14 , and in 2014,  helped to secure a five-year Institute of Education Sciences (IES) research grant to study CUNY Start with MDRC and the Community College Research Center. She also oversees the Graduation Success Initiative, a structured support program for public assistance recipients in their final year of associate degree study at five CUNY colleges. She holds a B.F.A. in drama from the University of Southern California and an M.F.A. in theater from Brooklyn College. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in higher education administration at Northeastern University.

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Ajita Talwalker Menon currently serves as the Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Prior to the White House, Ms. Menon served as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and has previously worked as an Education Policy Advisor to the U.S. House of Representatives – Committee on Education and Labor. A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ms. Menon is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). After college, she worked as a James H. Dunn Fellow in the Office of the Governor of Illinois where she developed and negotiated state agency budgets. Ms. Menon is nationally known for her leadership in student government serving a two-year term (2003-2005) at the United States Student Association (USSA), first as vice president and then as president, where she worked to cultivate the next generation of student leaders. Ms. Menon served as a policy analyst at The Institute for College Access & Success, an independent, non-profit organization that conducts and supports nonpartisan research, analysis, and advocacy to improve educational processes and public policies. She holds a Masters of Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Belinda Miles Photo formattedDr. Belinda Miles is a passionate advocate for maintaining the community college open door commitment, challenging and supporting students through high-quality academic programs, and improving success and completion outcomes. She became Provost and Executive Vice President of Access, Learning, and Success at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C©) in 2011 with oversight of four campuses and multiple extension sites in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs serving 48,000 students in career and transfer degree programs. Dr. Miles served Tri-C previously as President of the Eastern Campus, Dean of Academic Affairs, and Assistant Dean of Liberal Arts.

National leadership roles for Dr. Miles include serving as faculty at the Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) Summer Institute for Women at Bryn Mawr College since 2007 and at the Lakin Institute for community college leadership development since 2011. She has been a member of the Chair Academy’s International Presidential Advisory Board since 2006 and is a regular presenter on success, completion, and organizational dynamics at various national convenings. A graduate of the Leadership Cleveland (2010), Dr. Miles is the recipient of numerous awards including the Ohio Diversity Council’s Woman of Power and Influence Award (2013), the Education Award from the Ohio Coalition of National Council of Negro Women (2011) and the YWCA’s Woman of Professional Excellence award (2007).

Sue_Scrivener_Photo formattedSue Scrivener has almost two decades of experience evaluating programs for low-income individuals. She currently focuses primarily on reforms in higher education. She serves as the project director for MDRC’s evaluation of the City University of New York’s (CUNY’s) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for developmental education students, an uncommonly comprehensive program to help students graduate with an associate’s degree quickly. She is the project manager for an evaluation of the Gates Foundation’s Completion by Design initiative, which aims to help colleges provide a well-structured, well-supported pathway from entry to degree completion. She is also studying the implementation of CUNY Start, an innovating program to build students’ basic skills before they enter college. Earlier in her tenure at MDRC, Ms. Scrivener worked primarily on welfare and employment studies.


brett V formattedBrett Visger is Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Collaboration and Completion for the Ohio Board of Regents.  In this role, he is focused on helping all institutions in the University System of Ohio increase the number and percentage of students completing meaningful postsecondary degrees and certificates.    This includes developing strategies to help institutions improve completion rates, operate more systemically and implement approaches that lead to more adult students earning credentials.  Prior to this role, Brett worked as consultant on a wide variety of education and workforce alignment initiatives; clients included Jobs For the Future, Achieve, Association for Career and Technical Education, Workforce Strategy Center, CLASP, Lumina, Irvine and Ford Foundations.

Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Brett was Vice President, College & Career Access at KnowledgeWorks Foundation.  Brett played a key role in developing the Ohio Early College High School Network, Ohio Bridges to Opportunity Initiative, and the Ohio College Access Network. Brett has a background in youth programming and college access and has worked with programs at Wesleyan University, University of Connecticut, and the Greater Washington D.C. College Information Center as well as at the National Council for Education Opportunity Associations in Washington, DC. Visger earned a Bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from George Mason University.

Forum Brief

Click here to download the presentation slides

Benefit-Cost Analysis of Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) Of the City University of New York (CUNY)

MDRC: ASAP Early Results

MDRC: ASAP Two-Year Results

Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield

Senior Policy Analyst

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Loukman Lamany

Bronx ASAP/Baruch College

Donna Linderman

University Associate

Dean for Student Success Initiatives, CUNY

Ajita Menon

Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education

White House Domestic Policy Council

Dr. Belinda Miles


Cuyahoga Community College

Sue Scrivener

Senior Associate


Brett Visger

Associate Vice Chancellor

Institutional Collaboration & Completion, Ohio Board of Regents


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