NYC Family Services Coordinator Maryanne Schretzman champions CUNY ASAP (Accelerated Study in Associate Programs) as one of the innovative programs that boost the educational outcomes of foster care youth by offering them “wraparound services.” Since its inception in the Fall of 2007, CUNY ASAP has already proven its effectiveness by boasting a 54.9% graduation rate among its entering cohort of 1,132 students. The strength of that number is best appreciated against the graduation rate of similar CUNY community college students of 24% in three years, which still surpasses the nationwide 3-year graduation rate of 16% for urban community colleges.
ASAP’s mission is “to remove all barriers that prevent motivated community college students from completing their degrees.” These obstacles include emotional and social stress and financial responsibilities, along with the necessary adjustment to college-level work. It does so primarily by creating a small college feel within all six of CUNY’s community colleges. Students enter into small cohorts and take block-scheduled courses tailored to their desired area of study. In addition to financial aid, students are also given free access to textbooks and monthly Metro cards. ASAP also offers students weekly advisement sessions, academic support services, and career counseling.
It should be noted that CUNY ASAP does not exclusively target former and current foster care youth, but rather “low- and moderate-income community college students,” in general. If we take the Education Advisory Board’s observations to heart, the general nature of ASAP could definitely be an advantage for certain students who do not want to be stigmatized by their involvement with foster care and would rather be integrated into the university’s broader community. But the board, we recall, also designated “best in class” Seattle University’s comprehensive program that is specifically tailored to the needs of students in or emerging from foster care. Eric Hoffmann, University Director of Collaborative Programs at CUNY’s College Now (a dual enrollment program that allows public high school students to take courses at CUNY and better their chances for getting into and succeeding in college), informed me that his office has gotten many inquiries from people in the city and in surrounding suburbs about whether they had any programs specifically designed for foster youth (they don’t.)
As a final aside, there is something about Mayor Bloomberg’s description of the program that rubs me the wrong way:
CUNY ASAP is designed to provide New York City with the educated workforce that it must have in order to stay competitive with cities around the world.
I understand that it is the mayor’s job to look out for the city as a whole, and obviously the city’s financial health is a great concern to everyone, but I believe that education must serve the individual first and foremost. Maybe it’s simply a matter of semantics, but to my ear his phrasing ends up characterizing the city’s community colleges as a factory for good little workers.