‘CUNY Start’ Draws Highest Praise From U.S. Department Of Education

April 8, 2019

The federal Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education on Monday announced that a 2018 assessment of the CUNY Start program “meets WWC standards without reservations,” the highest evaluation standard accorded by the agency’s What Works Clearinghouse.

“This seal of approval from the federal Department of Education, hard to obtain as it is, further corroborates our belief in the value of CUNY Start, and its demonstrated effectiveness in enabling entering students to close any gaps in their preparation for college-level work and accelerate their college careers,” said Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “We also commend MDRC and Columbia’s Community College Research Center for their expertise in designing and conducting a top-quality, methodologically rigorous assessment.”

The randomized controlled trial – the result of a federally funded partnership between CUNY, the MDRC social policy research organization and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University – examined the initial effects of the CUNY Start program on college readiness in math, reading and writing, as well as on second semester enrollment and college credits earned.

The study took place at four CUNY campuses, compared outcomes among some 3,835 students and found that CUNY Start was more effective than standard remediation, and had statistically significant positive impacts on college readiness. Students who participated in CUNY Start also had higher second semester enrollment rates than their counterparts. Students who attended the program were found to have fewer college credits at the end of the first semester, but this was expected by the developers.

CUNY Start is a one-semester program that targets students with significant remedial needs. It delays enrollment in a degree program and provides, instead, intensive instruction that uses a more student-centered teaching method and carefully designed curricula delivered by trained teachers. It also integrates advising, tutoring and a weekly seminar that teaches students skills they need to succeed in college. Students pay $75 for the program, which fully preserves financial aid for credit coursework. CUNY Start and Math Start operate on 10 campuses across the University.

CUNY’s August 2018 release about the study can be found here. The full study can be read here and the findings can be found here.

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.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appeared originally in the CUNY Newswire, April 1, 2019.


  • Federal Institute of Education Sciences, the U.S. Department of Education, has given CUNY Start the highest evaluation standard accorded by the agency’s What Works Clearinghouse
  • BMCC’s CUNY Start program provides intensive, semester-long instruction for students who need to enroll in developmental skills courses
  • They also work closely with an academic advisor in a weekly College Success Seminar and one-on-one throughout the semester

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