Do Remedial College Classes Cost More Than They’re Worth?

Only 32 percent of students who graduate from high school are academically prepared for college, according to research from the Manhattan Institute Center for Civic Information1. Remedial classes in English, writing, and math are offered at many of today’s community and four-year colleges to address the overwhelming amount of students leaving high school without basic mastery of their core subjects.

Remedial classes are controversial because their worth is questioned in the grand scheme of things. Yes, remedial classes can open opportunities for more students to enter college who otherwise wouldn’t have the academic credentials to pursue an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. However, remedial classes can also offer a false hope to many students.

One study found students earning their associate’s degree who take at least one remedial class are half as likely to graduate in three or four years as the students who don’t. Another study of full-time students earning their associate’s degree at a community college found only 1.2 percent of those who took a remedial class finished in the standard 2 years. Only 13 percent finished their associate’s degree in four years2. Of students attending four-year colleges, two-thirds of students who take remedial courses will not earn degrees within six years3.

Remediation has many costs. Experts say it costs taxpayers twice as much, since they pay for the remediated students to take the same course in high school and in college. It also costs the student. As the tuition for higher education rises, more students are dropping out due to the high cost. This is especially a problem for those who have only budgeted, for example, to go to school for 2-years to earn a two-year degree; when in reality it will take many who need remedial courses more than four years to complete an associate’s degree.

Remediation isn’t a college problem; it’s a preparation problem. The solution to remediation is in K12 schools, communities, policy makers, after school programs, parents, and students. We can’t close our eyes and wait for someone else to bring the money and solutions to solve the college remediation crisis. It’s a problem for the 1% and the 99%. Individuals and big corporations. Elementary schools and colleges.


1“Remediation at the College Level: Who Needs It, and Does It Help?” by Professor Bridget Terry Long. Usable Knowledge.

2“Measure Would End No-Credit Remedial Classes At Colleges,” by Kathleen Megan. 19 March 2012. Hartford Courant. Accessed on 18 July 2012.

3“College Preparedness Lacking, Forcing Students into Developmental Coursework, Prompting Some to Drop Out.” 18 June 2012. The Huffington Post. Accessed on 18 July 2012.


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