Cities Working to Boost College Completion Explore Graduate NYC! Approach

by Jonathan Rogers

Cross-sector teams from 14 cities convened in New York City last week to share ideas and lessons learned for increasing college completion rates. Postsecondary education has become a growing focus for cities concerned about developing the human capital needed to sustain competitive local economies.

The Communities Learning in Partnership (CLIP) cross-site meeting sponsored by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF) engaged local, citywide partnerships that have had more than a year of experience implementing comprehensive postsecondary success strategies for low-income students. Each partnership receives funding for this work from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports and oversees the CLIP initiative, with the YEF Institute serving as managing intermediary.

Hosting teams from nearly every region of the country, New York City leaders showcased their latest efforts to align strategies and programs of the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York (CUNY) system, municipal agencies and a host of community and workforce partners through the Graduate NYC! initiative (see sidebar below for details). 

Reflecting on the reforms and policies that will stimulate progress toward higher college completion rates, Dennis M. Walcott, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, emphasized the value of changes in the school district's governance structure that foster collaboration with CUNY and investments by the Office of the Mayor's Center for Economic Opportunity in CUNY's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP). 

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein remarked on the importance of preparing students for college and the need for further investment to bring programs like ASAP to greater scale. 

"Students should be ready for postsecondary education, regardless of their goals," said Goldstein. "We know that to promote college readiness, the work we do with the New York City Department of Education is absolutely essential."

The cross-site meeting allowed local teams to compare their initiatives with those of their peers as they reflected on nearly two years of planning and implementation. Emerging issues across the partnerships include the development of new methods of engaging students and families in local completion efforts and crafting effective citywide public will-building strategies. 

Partners also discussed how to reengage disconnected youth and dropouts and visited the CUNY Prep program, a secondary school serving students ages 16 to 18 who have left traditional high schools but will complete their GED and move on to success in college.

Of the 14 teams that participated, four represented the CLIP implementation sites: San Francisco; Riverside, Calif.; Mesa, Ariz.; and New York City. Six teams represented CLIP-affiliated sites: Boston; Dayton, Ohio; Louisville, Ky.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Portland, Ore. 

In addition, participating cities involved in Partnerships for Postsecondary Success -CLIP's sister initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - included Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and Amarillo and Brownsville, Texas.

Details: To learn more about the Communities Learning in Partnership initiative, visit the YEF Institute webpage or contact Andrew Moore at (215) 848-6910 or

Graduate NYC! and New York City's Efforts to Increase College Completion Rates

The Graduate NYC! initiative seeks to increase the proportion of New York City's 1.1 million public school students who receive a postsecondary credential. Specifically, the partnership will work toward the goal of increasing the associate degree completion rate within the CUNY system from 10 percent to 25 percent by the year 2020.

The city has made key investments in CUNY's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which aims to help at least half of its participating students graduate within three years. As of September 2010, 55 percent of CUNY ASAP students earned their associate degrees within this time frame, more than triple the national average three-year graduation rate of 16 percent for all urban community colleges.

In harmony with the goals of Graduate NYC!, the New York City Department of Education has also invested heavily in the implementation of more rigorous academic standards and assessments that reflect college readiness goals and related professional development for teachers and administrators to enhance classroom instruction.

Indicative of each institution's commitment to collaboration, the Graduate NYC! team's work has led to an innovative data sharing strategy involving the Department of Education and CUNY, which will facilitate the use of student data to track college success indicators across the two institutions. The initiative's data team is currently mapping a plan to develop a data warehouse to maintain this information.