CUNY ASAP Wins Harvard Government Innovation Award

With the challenges created by COVID-19, the need for effective and creative government services is greater than ever. For this reason, we are particularly pleased that a program of which NYC Opportunity is a founding partner, the City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (CUNY ASAP), won the 2020 Innovations in Government Award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

This is the third time NYC Opportunity or one of the programs it helped to launch has been recognized by the Innovations in American Government Award, which is given to public-sector programs that make American government more efficient, creative, and effective at addressing social problems and providing services to the public. In 2011, NYC Opportunity, which was then called the Center for Economic Opportunity, won the award itself. Last year, the Arches Transformative Mentoring Program, which NYC Opportunity helped to implement in partnership with the Department of Probation and the Young Men’s Initiative, was named a finalist.


CUNY ASAP helps students earn associate degrees in three years by providing them with an array of financial, academic, and personal support services. These include tuition waivers, personalized advising, tutoring, and help in scheduling classes to accommodate students’ outside work obligations. In its 13 years of existence, CUNY ASAP has helped more than 58,000 students obtain degrees.

The program currently serves 25,000 students across nine partner colleges. The participants are primarily low-income and Black or Latinx.

CUNY ASAP has a proven record of increasing the rate at which students obtain degrees. There is a large body of data and rigorous evaluations showing its effectiveness. An independent evaluation of the program by MDRC found that it nearly doubled three-year graduation rates for participants. It also significantly narrows the gap in racial and ethnic graduation rates.

Due to its record of success, the program is being replicated in five states nationwide.

In announcing the award, Professor Stephen Goldsmith, the director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center, said:

“the conclusions of our national panel of experts show that as we come out of the current crisis now more than ever what CUNY has done should be a model for community college and university systems across the country.”

To learn more about the CUNY ASAP, read the evaluation.



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