New Study Shows LaGuardia Community College’s GED Bridge Program Significantly Boosts GED Pass Rates and College Enrollment
John Hutchins, MDRC, 212-340-8604, firstname.lastname@example.org
Randy Fader-Smith, LaGuardia Community College, 718-482-5985, email@example.com
(New York, May 16, 2013) — MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education
and social policy research firm, released encouraging findings today from a rigorous evaluation of a new approach to GED instruction
pioneered by LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New
York (CUNY). The GED Bridge to Health and Business Program not only aims
to better prepare students to pass the GED exam but also to continue on
to college and training programs. One year after enrolling in the
program, Bridge students were more than twice as likely to have passed
the GED exam and three times as likely to have enrolled in college as
students in a more traditional GED preparation class.
In many large cities, high school dropout rates hover
around 50 percent. And while most dropouts eventually do continue their
education, too few of those who start GED programs ever pass the exam.
Moreover, for those who do earn their GED, the certificate often marks
the end of their education, in part because few GED programs (even those
that operate on community college campuses) are well linked to college
or training programs. Students with only a GED face long odds of success
in a labor market that increasingly prizes specialized training and
college education. The need to develop stronger pathways to college for
those without high school credentials is clear. And this need is only
magnified by new rules eliminating federal financial aid for aspiring
college students without a high school diploma or a GED and by the
planned 2014 implementation of a new GED exam that emphasizes college
What Is LaGuardia’s Bridge to Health and Business Program?
LaGuardia’s GED Bridge to Health and Business Program offers several
enhancements to the traditional GED preparation approach. Rather than
focusing solely on passing the test, the program was designed explicitly
as a pathway to college and careers. Students attend more hours in
class over the course of a semester than is typical for GED programs and
receive intensive advising from full-time Bridge staff. The foundation
of the GED Bridge program is its “contextualized curriculum.” The
curriculum has two broad goals: first, to build the skills that are
tested on the GED exam through the use of content specific to a field of
interest (health or business) and, second, to develop general academic
habits and skills that prepare students to succeed in college or
What Did MDRC’s Study Find?
MDRC used a random assignment design to evaluate the
effects of the GED Bridge program on student achievement compared with a
more traditional GED program (GED Prep). The GED Bridge program was
targeted to low-income individuals in New York City who did not have a
high school diploma or a GED. Over 80 percent of students were either
African-American or Hispanic, about half of the students scored at a
seventh- or eighth-grade reading level, over half reported receiving
some form of public assistance, and close to 40 percent reported that
they were employed when they began the program. MDRC’s analysis provides
one-year of follow-up on three cohorts of students (fall 2010, spring
2011, and fall 2011). Key findings include:
- Compared with students who went through the traditional
GED Prep course, Bridge students were much more likely to complete the
semester of classes. The first milestone for students in the
GED Bridge program is class completion. Students in the GED Bridge group
completed the class at a significantly higher rate than the Prep
students (68 percent compared with 47 percent).
- Bridge students were more than twice as likely to pass the GED exam as GED Prep students.
Overall, 53 percent of Bridge students passed the exam within 12 months
of entering the study, compared with 22 percent of Prep students.
- GED Bridge students were more than three times as likely to enroll in CUNY as GED Prep students.
Only 7 percent of GED Prep students enrolled compared with 24 percent
of GED Bridge students, a difference of 17 percentage points.
“LaGuardia’s pioneering work with the GED Bridge program is
changing the lives of students. We now have powerful evidence that we
can significantly improve students’ ability to pass the GED test and
successfully enroll in college. LaGuardia is committed to not only see
this work grow at our own campus, but also to share our strategy and
approach with educators across the nation,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow,
President of LaGuardia Community College.
“With national interest growing in programs that prepare
individuals for careers in high-growth industries, and with changes
coming to the GED exam, these promising findings could hardly come at a
better time,” said Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC. “They contribute to
a growing body of evidence that sector or career-based initiatives may
offer an effective route for low-income, low-skilled adult learners to
complete secondary education and gain access to higher education and
In 2014, MDRC will publish longer-term follow-up data, which will
include the fourth and final study cohort and information on persistence
in college. Given that these promising findings are from only one site,
it will be important to test other models that have a similar approach
and goal of preparing low-income students for college and careers.
The Robin Hood Foundation and MetLife Foundation supported both the
development of the GED Bridge program at LaGuardia Community College and
Read the complete brief here.