A program that helps low-income students at CUNY colleges is being slashed from the proposed budget and one elected official has taken notice.
On May 13, Councilman Fernando Cabrera called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to restore a planned $20 million cut in funding for the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which is specifically designed to address the barriers that cash strapped students face.
“The ASAP program has been a lifeline for students pursuing associate degrees in the face of tremendous hardships,” Cabrera said. “At this critical time when the COVID-19 pandemic is showing us the deadliness and potential fatality of racial disparities, how can we end the programs that lead the way out of poverty?”
Established in 2007, ASAP provides important supports including personalized advisement, tutoring, assistance with goal-setting and structured pathways to support academic momentum. ASAP also offers MetroCards, without which, many students could not afford to attend classes.
Cabrera stressed that young people are the future and they should not be denied an education because they can’t afford it. As the city is battling COVID-19 and doing its budget for next year, he stressed that the federal government must step in.
“Even when you got to do budget cuts you have to look at priorities,” the councilman said. “Young people are our priorities.”
According to Cabrera, Bronx Community College is a prime example of the program’s success.
“We’ve seen for years how much ASAP does for students,” Cabrera stated. “Bronx Community College experienced an increase of more than 285 percent in graduation rate between fall 2006 and fall 2015. At Bronx Community College, ASAP students earn their associate degrees at higher rates than non-ASAP students and transfer to baccalaureate programs at higher rates than non-ASAP students.”
Nationally recognized for its success, ASAP has been cited by the Economist and received the prestigious “Innovations in American Government” award from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2020. The proposed funding cut will affect more than 50 percent of Bronx Community College’s student population.
He understands money is being earmarked to combat COVID, but why take it away from education, he said.
“I have seen firsthand at how effective it has been at BCC in retaining students,” he explained. “We need ASAP as soon as possible.”
The councilman has even spoken to David Levers, the director of government relations at BCC, who said the staff at the school is concerned.
“We haven’t managed this money well,” Cabrera commented. “We need to ask ourselves what’s important. I encourage every student and parent to write to the administration asking them not to cut the program.