The Promise Scholars Program (PSP) demonstrates rigor in design through its fidelity to CUNY’s evidence-based Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) model, a successful initiative proven to increase timely graduation rates among community college students. ASAP began in 2007 with 1,132 students across six community colleges and is expanding to serve 25,000 students by academic year 2018/19. ASAP is a proven model committed to graduating at least 50% of students within three years through provision of comprehensive support services and financial resources that remove barriers to full-time study and support timely degree completion. ASAP students graduate at more than double the rates of non-ASAP students. To date, across seven cohorts, ASAP has an average graduation rate of 53.2% vs. 24.1% of comparison group students.

How did Promise Scholars Program begin?

In 2017, Skyline College received a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) in the amount of $836,607 for technical assistance from the CUNY-ASAP Office to support the implementation of the model with high fidelity. The Promise Scholars Program includes the Promise Scholarship, designed to remove financial barriers to full-time enrollment and promote higher rates of persistence and completion of educational goals. The Promise Scholarship was expanded to College of San Mateo (CSM) and Cañada College in Fall 2017, with the expansion funded by a successful application for the CA Promise Innovation Grant that provided $750,000 to support the scholarship program District-wide. Efforts are currently underway to expand the Promise Scholars Program, including replication of the ASAP model beyond the scholarship component, from Skyline College to Cañada and CSM.

The Promise Scholars Program at Skyline College began with 139 students in its inaugural Fall 2016 cohort, and in Fall 2017 expanded to serve 253 new students. While some elements of the CUNY ASAP model, including fee waivers and the 150:1 counselor-to-student ratio have been implemented already, the Promise Scholars Program will launch full replication of the CUNY ASAP model in Fall 2018, with an expected entering cohort size of 500 students.

Promise Scholars Program Early Successes

Thus far, the Promise Scholars Program has shown promising results in expanding access to underrepresented student populations and impressive persistence rates. For Promise Scholars who enrolled and began the program in Fall 2016, 96.4% persisted to Spring 2017, compared to 85.4% persistence rate among the full-time comparison group. The Fall 2016 cohort persistence to Fall 2017 for Promise Scholars and the full-time comparison group was 82.0%, and 70.5%, respectively. Both the Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 Promise Scholars cohorts have outperformed the full-time comparison group in their initial persistence to Spring 2018.

The primary goal of the Promise Scholars Program is to triple the current two-year and three-year graduation rates of students. These increased persistence rates, coupled with continued financial and academic support, has positively affected the 2-year completion rates of students across the District. The Fall 2018 PSP cohort have earned degrees above the historical comparison 2-year rate at each campus, doubling the comparison rate at CSM and quadrupling the rate at Skyline College. When considering PSP students who also earned certificates or transferred without degree, the overall 2-year completion rates are 15% at Cañada College, 20% at CSM, and 30% at Skyline College.