Successful Community College Acceleration Program should be Expanded through the FY22/23 Budget

April 2, 2021 | Ohio

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Successful Community College Acceleration Program should be Expanded through the FY22/23 Budget

April 2, 2021

By Alex Coccia, Policy Consultant

A hidden gem among Ohio nutrition support programs is the small but successful Community College Acceleration Program (CCAP). CCAP is a joint Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) and Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) project aimed at enhancing financial, academic, and personal support services for college students who need support from local social service agencies. CCAP was approved in the FY2020/2021 Budget and funded through SNAP Employment and Training dollars (SNAP E&T).

CCAP was modeled upon the City University of New York’s successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). ASAP provides participants with free, unlimited transportation cards; textbook assistance; tuition scholarship in addition to financial aid awards; a dedicated advisor; class registration options; community building opportunities; and career development support services. Randomized control trials found that ASAP nearly doubled graduation rates after three years of the program, and after six years continued to increase graduation rates and the speed at which students graduated.

In 2014, ASAP was piloted in three Ohio community colleges: Cuyahoga Community College, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and Lorain County Community College. This pilot project boosted full-time enrollment, semester-to-semester persistence, and summer enrollment; increased the number of credits earned (a 37% increase in credit accumulation after two years); and more than doubled graduation rates after two years. All for an annual cost per participant of $2,331. SNAP E&T dollars are much more effective when used in programs such as ASAP rather than in more traditional and mandatory employment and training programs.

The success of the ASAP demonstration makes clear the importance of expanding a program like CCAP to improve retention and graduation rates among Ohio community colleges. ASAP and CCAP are modeled as a “wrap-around service,” which provides a range of holistic supports to individuals to address their particular barriers. Wrap-around services rightfully assume that people do not face different issues in silos, and that, in order for individuals to make ends meet, it requires addressing more than one challenge at a time. These wrap-around are incredibly important to non-traditional college students (students who are older, working, parents, and low-income), who make up nearly three-fourths of today’s student population.

The track record for CCAP and similar programs is clear: they work, are replicable, and are relatively inexpensive per student. However, CCAP is currently implemented in only five community colleges, providing students personal college advising, counseling, tutoring, tuition waivers, and financial assistance to help defray the costs of transportation and textbooks. In his 2019 testimony to the Ohio House Finance Committee, ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner noted how important a program like CCAP is for both college affordability and completion. This is especially important given the increased needs that low-income community college students are facing.

College enrollment has dropped across the country since the pandemic began, with community college enrollment declining by 9.4%, “nearly nine times their pre-pandemic loss rate,” equating to more than 600,000 students not enrolling at community colleges this year nationally. College students have also experienced increased food insecurity and high rates of unemployment and wage loss, since the pandemic began.

Making community college more affordable and supporting students with wrap-around services is a crucial element to Ohio’s recovery. Ohio legislators should invest in students working hard to achieve their dreams through higher education and, therefore, should support and expand ODJFS’ FY2022/2023 budget request of SNAP E&T funds for CCAP in order to expand from five to fifteen community colleges implementing the program, with the aim of expanding to all community colleges in Ohio by the end of FY2024/2025.