The Intersection

The Cost of Remedial Education

November 15, 2016

Every year there are millions of students across the country that enroll in colleges and universities only to discover that they need to take remedial classes – that will not count toward their degrees – because they did not learn the material that they should have in high school. In a Center for American Progress study by authors Laura Jimenez, director of standards and accountability for the K-12 education policy team at the Center for American Progress; Scott Sargrad, managing director of the K-12 education policy team at the Center; Jessica Morales, former policy advocate at Generation Progress; and Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress, they “find that remedial courses cost students and their families serious money—about $1.3 billion across the 50 states and the District of Columbia every year. What is more, students who take these classes are less likely to graduate. Simply put, remedial education—or developmental education as it is also known—is a systemic black hole from which students are unlikely to emerge.

After defining remedial education, the authors briefly review the typical methods that institutions employ to identify students in need of remediation and the resulting national demographics of remediated students. Then, the report touches on national rates of progress through remedial education for major racial or ethnic and socioeconomic student groups before focusing on how much money students spend on these courses that do not count toward a degree. While there are certainly reforms to the design of remedial education in higher education institutions that could improve student retention and completion, the recommendations that conclude this report focus on other ways for the K-12 and higher education systems to eliminate the need for remedial education for recent high school graduates.

The national rates of remediation are a significant problem. According to college enrollment statistics, many students are underprepared for college-level work. In the United States, research shows that anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent of first-year college students require remediation in English, math, or both. Remedial classes increase students’ time to degree attainment and decrease their likelihood of completion. While rates vary depending on the source, on-time completion rates of students who take remedial classes are consistently less than 10 percent.”

To continue reading the article, Remedial Education: The Cost of Catching Up, go to the Center for American Progress’ website. To read the report, go here.

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