Graduate NYC’s College Completion Innovation Fund (CCIF) is investing nearly $1.3 million in innovative initiatives and projects to improve college persistence and completion rates in New York City. Four grants were made by the CCIF during the 2016 Grantmaking Cycle to serve low-income, first-generation college students. These projects have the potential to catalyze innovation and significantly improve college graduation rates for the young people they serve, while influencing the college success field more broadly. The CCIF’s funded projects from the 2016 Grantmaking Cycle began implementation in the fall of 2016.

Bottom Line was founded in 1997, and currently provides college retention supports to more than 1,200 New York City students. The three-year CCIF grant to Bottom Line supports the organization in adapting and innovating its current program model in order to support transfer students for the first time. This new initiative serves low-income, first-generation college-goers who are graduating from CUNY community colleges with associate degrees and are entering one of several CUNY senior colleges. Through this program, the students receive both summer transitional programming as well as comprehensive ongoing support during their time at their respective senior colleges. The project aims to increase bachelor’s degree attainment significantly for the students served, and also has potential for broader impact on the field’s understanding of how to serve transfer students more effectively.

The City College of New York is the oldest of the CUNY campuses, and the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership enrolls nearly 20% of City College’s undergraduate students. The CCIF grant to the Colin Powell School for one year allowed the school to replicate a project called Project Win-Win, to recover degrees not obtained by working to identify, re-engage, and support students who are fewer than 12 credits away from graduation, but have abandoned their studies. This project aimed to assist specific students in the target group in returning to school and earning degrees quickly. Additionally, it facilitated the identification of non-academic barriers to graduation, in order to improve internal processes that will benefit students, and ultimately improve completion rates.

Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation has been providing college access services to students in the community of Cypress Hills, Brooklyn since 2000, and have more recently expanded their services to also include college retention and completion programming. The three-year CCIF grant enables Cypress Hills’ well-established peer mentor program to integrate targeted counseling to support their students in successfully transferring from two-year to four-year colleges. This is the first local program to leverage peer counseling to help students plan for and transition to senior colleges, and will help to inform the field’s growing understanding of best practices connected to peer coaching and increasing bachelor’s degree attainment.

Student Leadership Network (formerly Young Women’s Leadership Network), founded in 1998, runs a network of all-girls public schools in New York City, and, in addition, offers a comprehensive college access and success program for young men and women called CollegeBound Initiative (CBI). The three-year CCIF grant invests in a new CBI project called The Closer. Also based in part on Project Win-Win, The Closer is re-engaging several hundred program alumni who have left college with the equivalent of six or more semesters’ worth of credits, and provide support to re-engage them in college and help them to complete their bachelor’s degrees. The CCIF believes that this investment will help inform and address underlying factors that hinder students who are nearing the finish line to college graduation.