While some young people, such as Antonio, and organizations such as NYEC sing the praises of CASES for its progress with Next Steps, CASES’ staff leadership acknowledged that the desired results – the earning of college credits and ultimately some sort of postsecondary credential or degree – are challenging to achieve.
For instance, while CASES officials had projected that 17 participants from each annual cohort would earn college credits in their first year of college enrollment, only 23 out of 41 students from the first two years earned college credits within a year of enrolling, according to data provided by CASES.
“We attribute the lower-than-expected rate to the high percentage – 56 percent – of our students who have outstanding developmental education requirements when they enroll in college,” said Loyal Miles, CASES development director.
In fairness, and as pointed out by CASES officials themselves, success within community colleges is a challenge for all students, not just those involved in the court system.
“Context is important when reporting the outcomes of CASES’ Next Steps program,” Miles said, pointing out that a recent study found fewer than 5 percent of CUNY community college students attain an associate’s degree within two years, and more than 50 percent drop out.
Further, only 30 percent of youth newly released from incarceration obtain employment or are in school within 12 months, and only 17 percent of incarcerated individuals ever complete some postsecondary education, Miles said, citing the NYEC report.
For instance, since Next Steps began in 2011, just one student earned an associate’s degree, according to CASES. Eight more are “on pace” to earn their associate’s degrees in less than four years.
“That’s one reason private funding like that provided through NYEC’s Postsecondary Success Initiative is so critical,” said Miles, noting that most of the organization’s funding is through performance-based contracts that require a wide range of service outputs and participant outcomes.
“It has enabled CASES to develop and test new services that were unlikely to be viable if dependent on performancebased funding,” Miles said.