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A randomized controlled trial of Accelerate, Complete, Engage (ACE) at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice, aimed at increasing the rate of graduation with a bachelor’s degree.

This well-conducted RCT found that ACE increased bachelor’s degree completion by 12 percentage points four years after random assignment (a five-year follow-up is underway).

Grantee: Research Foundation of the City University of New York (CUNY). The study report is linked here.

Description of the Intervention: ACE at John Jay is a comprehensive program designed to help students complete their academic journey to a bachelor’s degree within four years. ACE is modeled on CUNY Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) – a program that has been found effective at increasing degree completion among two-year community college students. ACE uses the same comprehensive student support model and program components as ASAP, adapted to a four-year college setting – CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. These components include required full-time enrollment, coupled with services and supports in the following areas: early engagement and community building, academic momentum, advisement and career development, academic support, and financial supports.

Study Design: The researchers randomly assigned 570 incoming freshmen at John Jay College to either a treatment group that was offered the program, or a control group that was not (but had access the college’s usual services). Sample members averaged 18 years of age, and were 70% female, 48% Hispanic, 10% Black, 10% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 14% White. 50% were the first member of their family to attend college. The study’s pre-registered primary outcome for the four-year follow-up is the rate of on-time” (four-year) graduation with a bachelor’s degree from any college, measured with data from the National Student Clearinghouse and the CUNY Institutional Research Database. The study is ongoing, and will measure graduation rates through five years after random assignment. 

Impact on the Primary Outcome: At follow-up four years after random assignment, the study found that ACE increased the rate of on-time graduation with a bachelor’s degree by 12.4 percentage points. Specifically, 58.8% of the treatment group completed a bachelor’s degree versus 46.4% of the control group – a difference that was statistically significant (p<0.01). 

Study Quality. Based on a careful review, we believe the study was well-conducted and produced valid findings. 1

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    For example, the study had successful random assignment (as evidenced by highly similar treatment and control groups), negligible sample attrition, and valid analyses that were appropriately pre-specified.