Preparation Before Remediation

Students’ lack of preparation takes on many forms beyond academic deficits. It shows up with them not knowing what to expect from college, not knowing how to anticipate challenges and obstacles, and not having the grit and determination to succeed. It shows up with their lack of follow through skills, and their not knowing how to take advantage of resources to craft a college experience that will deliver the abilities and connections to launch a successful career. It shows up with students lacking the emotional and social awareness to make sound choices and navigate college systems. And it surfaces with students embracing unrealistic expectations of what simultaneously can be managed, including: full and part-time work, families, social lives, and other demands.

Underprepared students are a cost to the nation and a cost to themselves. It’s argued that taxpayers pay for remediated students twice; once in high school and again in college. Students who take the same remedial class multiple times are spending money on a course that takes away from the amount of money they have to spend on their college-level courses and possibly from hours they can spend at their job. Though many choose higher education as a pathway to higher potential earnings, many choose to drop out due to seemingly temporary hurdles, like finances, failing grades, and unpreparedness.

Remedial classes were designed to allow students to pursue higher education who didn’t master basic skills in reading, writing, or math in high school. Every year, as many as 1.7 million first-year students entering both two-year and four-year colleges will take a remedial course to learn the skills they need to enroll in a college-level course.[i]

      • More than fifty percent of students attending a two-year college will need to take a remedial course.
      • Almost twenty percent of students attending a four-year college will need to take a remedial course. [ii]

Remedial classes do open opportunities for students whom otherwise might not have the academic credentials to enter college to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Without remedial classes, students who didn’t have the guidance, motivation, and know-how to get into college, would be held responsible for the shortfalls experienced in school and kept from ever pursuing higher education. However, statistics show remediation is not always effective.

      • Less than one-quarter of students attending a two-year college who take a remedial course will complete a college-level English or math class.[iii]
      • Slightly more than one-third of students attending a four-year college who take a remedial course will complete a college-level English or math class.[iv]

Enrolling more students in college does not guarantee more college graduates. Though remediation may look like a helping hand to students, statistics show students who are required to take a remedial course are less likely to graduate from college than their nonremediated peers.[v]

The solution to the bigger preparation problem 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 education crisis. It’s a problem for the 1% and the 99%. Individuals and big corporations. Elementary schools, secondary schools, and colleges.

Remediation ends when preparation begins. Get your students prepared for middle school, high school, college, and career with my books Success in Middle School, Making the Most of High School, and Majoring in the Rest of Your Life. Giving students a context for their education is crucial for engagement and motivation in their teen years. Encourage internships, service learning, and volunteerism so students get real-world working experiences, despite the especially tough economy for young adults.


[i] Complete College “America. Remediation: Higher Education’s Bridge to Nowhere.” April 2012: 3. PDF. <>.

[ii] Ibid., p. 2

[iii] Ibid. p. 3.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Alliance for Excellent Education. “Saving Now and Saving Later: How High School Reform Can Reduce the Nation’s Wasted Remediation Dollars.” Issue Brief. May 2011: 1. PDF. <>

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