Is It Time to Reinvent the Remedial College Course?

Remedial college courses were designed to give opportunity to students, however, a recent report shows, for many, remedial classes can be an expensive sense of false hope.

Half of all undergrads and 70 percent of community college students will take a remedial class, according to the article “National Group Calls for Big Changes in Remedial Education.” Of those, the study found less than one in 10 students who took three or more semesters of remedial math completed the first-year college-level math course they need to take to graduate.

Not only does having to take multiple remedial classes — or repeating the same remedial course — cause a setback in the time it takes to graduate from college, it also takes a financial toll on the individual, the state taxpayer, and the federal taxpayer. While the demand for remedial education shows there is a great need, the effectiveness of developmental education in America is under question.

As the country recovers from the recession and the workforce demands more higher-skilled workers, it’s no surprise many adults are returning to school. However, many will require taking at least one remedial course to revive their rusty academic skills. In Florida:

  • 85 percent of students who took a remedial course were 20-years-old and over in the 2010-11 school year.
  • Four in every five first-year, full-time students over 20-years-old had to take a remedial math course.
  • 90 percent of students over age 35 had to take a remedial math course.

13th Grade: Older, Returning Students Strain Florida’s Community and State Colleges

Though remedial courses may not be the answer for all students, they have afforded many students a chance at earning a college degree when it would otherwise be out of their reach. The conversation requires us to examine not only where higher education is failing, but where the K-12 school system can improve to prepare their graduates with the skills to succeed in higher ed and land a job. Will a college and career emphasis in K-12 be enough to prepare more students for math in higher ed? Will the number of students failing remedial courses in reading, writing, and math ask us to reevaluate the basic skills a college graduate needs to earn a degree?

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