CUNY’s ‘ACE’ Program At John Jay College Exceeds Target Goals For Timely Degree Completion

CUNY’s ‘ACE’ Program At John Jay College Exceeds Target Goals For Timely Degree Completion

CUNY’s ‘ACE’ Program At John Jay College Exceeds Target Goals For Timely Degree Completion

John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the City University of New York (CUNY) had extra cause for celebration when graduates received their diplomas at John Jay’s Commencement ceremonies on May 29, 2019. Among those who completed their bachelor’s degrees were the first participants in CUNY’s Accelerate, Complete and Engage (ACE) program, conceived to provide students with financial resources and structured supports that would help them complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.

CUNY launched the ACE program at John Jay in the fall of 2015 with the aim of achieving at least a 50% four-year baccalaureate completion rate among participants, and the 262 students who formed the first ACE cohort more than made good on that goal. Some 155 members of that group — 59.2% — graduated in four years or stand to do so this summer. The ACE students’ four-year graduation rate outpaced by nearly 20 percentage points that of a matched comparison group of non-participating John Jay students, and it far exceeded the 33% four-year graduation rate of the nation’s public colleges based on the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education. Timely degree completion is critical to social mobility, as students who graduate on time can enter the labor market at an earlier juncture and boost their long-term earning potential.

“These outstanding four-year graduation rates from John Jay’s first ACE cohort prove that CUNY has created a winning model to help far more baccalaureate-seeking students complete their degrees in a timely manner,” said Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “I am grateful to our John Jay College leadership, and to Robin Hood for its generous support in helping CUNY launch ACE and enabling its expansion to Lehman College in the coming fall session.”

John Jay’s ACE participants come from all five city boroughs and across the metropolitan region. In a longitudinal study designed by the university, a comparison group was created with the use of propensity score matching to pair each ACE student from the Fall 2015 cohort with a similar, but non-participating classmate. The full group analysis shows that ACE benefited all subgroups of students, narrowing achievement gaps by ethnicity, race and gender. Retention rates among John Jay’s two subsequent ACE cohorts portend similar four-year graduation rates in coming years, suggesting that the successful early outcomes are not an anomaly.

“My top priority is our students’ success, and the ACE program shows the potential for dramatically improving retention and credit completion rates using carefully designed strategies,” said Karol V. Mason, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Being the first four-year CUNY college to initiate the ACE program gives me great pride, made even more special as I watched our first four-year ACE graduates walk across the stage at Commencement.”

Here are a few of those students, who proudly received their diplomas at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens:

  • Gabyola (Gaby) Rojas graduated with an undergraduate and master’s degree in Criminal Justice – in 3½ years. Rojas was an athlete and an Honors student, and now she’s an NYPD Cadet.
  • Yuliya Samboryk was born in Ukraine and came to the U.S. at age 4. She plans to go to law school to study criminal law and immigration.
  • Bosco Villavicencio also graduated in 3½ years, earning a BA in Criminology. He is already enrolled in the Criminal Justice Master’s Program at John Jay and, with professor Jason Silva, has conducted important research on mass shootings in the U.S.

ace students
To date, 901 students at John Jay have been served in ACE with support from Robin Hood, the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Arnold Ventures is also supporting a random assignment study of John Jay ACE that launched in fall 2018, led by Metis Associates and CUNY.

“Robin Hood could not be prouder to see these on-time graduation rates from the first ACE cohort, and to support CUNY in the development of another transformational model,” said Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood. “These impressive results clearly demonstrate that ACE could be as beneficial to baccalaureate students as ASAP has been for those seeking an associate degree. We look forward with optimism to the expansion of ACE to Lehman College this fall.”

ACE is modeled on CUNY’s successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), which was launched in 2007 to help students complete associate degrees in no more than three years. ASAP has doubled three-year associate degree graduation rates and become a nationally recognized model that is being implemented by other community colleges. Both programs help mitigate obstacles that often prevent a student from graduating in a timely manner, if at all, by providing students with academic, social and financial support.

ASAP and ACE participating students receive a set of financial resources and structured supports: tuition waivers to close any gap after need-based financial aid; free unlimited monthly MetroCards to defray commuting expenses; textbook assistance; early registration options to ensure their enrollment in the courses they need to fulfill requirements; and opportunities to take courses in the summer and winter sessions. Students work with an assigned personal adviser and a career specialist, who monitor and guide their progress from freshman year through graduation They also get help finding internships and applying for research opportunities and scholarships.

The students who entered ACE in the Fall of 2015 and subsequent cohorts were required to be enrolled as first-time, full-time freshmen and apply for financial aid each year. Eighty percent of ACE students are in receipt of state and federal need-based aid. They were required to pursue a major from an approved list of ACE majors; enroll in at least 15 credits each semester; attend one ACE seminar per month; meet at least once per month with an ACE academic adviser; participate in academic support activities such as math study groups and writing workshops; and complete a series of career-development activities.

With additional support from Robin Hood and the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, ACE will expand to Lehman College this fall with a cohort of 250 students — half first-time full-time freshmen, and half full-time transfer students with a CUNY associate degree. Freshmen will be served for four years to support timely graduation, and transfer students will receive two years of support to earn a bachelor’s degree. The expectation is that ACE will be expanded to senior colleges across the CUNY system.

Funding from Robin Hood has been essential to the sustenance of ACE at John Jay and its impending expansion. Robin Hood is New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization, providing nonprofits with financial, material and managerial support. Robin Hood supports schools, food pantries, homeless shelters, health care facilities and workforce training centers.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: 
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 24 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields.  The University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.