A recently released report from the Center for American Progress has examined the remedial education system currently in place in the United States, calling it a “black hole” from which students are unlikely to pull themselves out of.
The report, “Remedial Education: The Cost of Catching Up,” states that millions of students enroll in college each year across the country and discover that they need to take remedial education courses. Teaching students what they should have learned in high school, these courses do not count toward a degree program, but still come with a financial price tag. Estimates suggest the courses are costing students and their families in all 50 states close to $1.3 billion each year.
The authors say that students who enroll in these courses are less likely to graduate.
“I felt the remedial courses were a waste of time. … If I was taught and learned how to think more critically and pushed to achieve more or reach higher standards in high school, I think I would be doing much better in college, and it would be easier.” — Courtney, a first generation college student from Texas
Study authors report that while Courtney had dropped out of college, she had reenrolled by the time they interviewed her for the report.
The authors then discussed the typical methods used by institutions to determine which students would benefit from remedial education courses as well as the national demographics of these students.
The report also touches on the national rates of remediation, finding that between 40% and 60% of first-year college students in the United States require remedial help in English, math, or both. These classes not only increase the time it takes students to obtain a degree, but also decrease the likelihood that they will complete a degree program. Although rates vary, the on-time completion rates of students who take remedial courses is consistently under 10%.
The problem is noticeably larger for low-income students and students of color, who have higher rates of remedial education participation than their white and higher income peers. A recent study notes that 56% of African American students and 45% of Latino students enroll in remedial courses in comparison to 35% of white students.
The study also recognizes the financial burden that these courses cause for students. According to the authors’ analysis, students are spending around $1.3 billion on these classes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The authors state that higher academic standards, such as Common Core, should be implemented in high schools across the country in order to ensure that students do not need to take remedial courses when they begin their college career.
In addition, they suggest that the higher education and K-12 systems work together to increase academic continuity between the two in order to align requirements. They go on to say that the higher education system needs to be transparent with students concerning the knowledge, skills, and coursework that will be necessary in order to succeed.