As many as 1.7 million first-year students will take a remedial course to learn the math, reading, or writing skills they need to enroll in a college-level course. Whether urban, rural, suburban, low-income, athletic, artistic, academic, high-achieving, or low-achieving, too many of today’s students aren’t prepared for the challenge of higher education.
Remediating underprepared students is not a solution in and of itself. It can afford amazing opportunities to students who only need a refresher, like the returning student or the student who slacked off her last year in high school. However, sending students to a remedial college course who do not have a foundation of basic skills often leads to failure. In the report “Saving Now and Saving Later: How High School Reform Can Reduce the Nation’s Wasted Remediation Dollars,” researchers outline the “Real Cost of Remedial Education.”
Cost to the Nation: An analysis by the advocacy group Alliance for Excellent Education estimates remedial classes cost $3.6 billion a year nationally.
Cost to the Economy: On average, those who have completed some college make $17,000 less than those with a bachelor’s degree. This amounts to less tax revenue and disposable income. It’s estimated that the U.S. would make $2 billion in additional earning if students who dropped out had instead completed their degrees at the same time as nonremedial students.
Cost to Federal and State Governments: Between 2003 and 2008, state governments spent $1.4 billion dollars and the federal government spent over $1.5 billion in grants to students who did not return to college the next year.
Cost to the Taxpayer: Taxpayers pay for students to learn the same material twice – once in high school and again in a remedial college course.
Cost to the Student: Students at 4-year colleges pay 42 percent of their college tuition and fees and students at two-year colleges pay 14 percent.
Most remedial classes don’t count toward graduation. If a student must complete several remedial classes before he can begin other coursework, it could add semesters and significant additional tuition costs to his college experience, not to mention lost time and money if the student drops out of college. Though many students 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 have their place, but they are not beneficial for all students. The 1.7 million students who enroll in a remedial class each year tell us that it is becoming more and more common for students to leave high school without the basic reading, writing, and math skills it takes to enroll and succeed in a college-level course. If we want more college graduates, we need more focus on college preparedness.
At LifeBound we believe it’s never too early for students to start exploring their passions and interests that they can eventually align with a college major, certificate program, or career. Help students make connections between the choices they make today and the dreams they have for their future. Introduce them to positive role models, talk about the careers and salary opportunities of someone with an associate’s degree versus a high school diploma, and encourage them to find a tutor or peer to help them with subjects they are struggling in.