Written by Todd Engdahl, Thursday, December 11 2008
About 30 percent of Colorado college freshmen need to take a remedial class in at least one subject, according to a report released Thursday by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
That’s about the same rate recorded in the previous three years. (The latest report is for the 2007-08 fiscal year.)
Students enrolled in two-year colleges have the greatest need for remediation, and math is the subject in which most students need help.
The state’s educational achievement gaps between white and minority students also are reflected in remediation statistics. “63 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, 79 percent of Black, non-Hispanics, 65 percent of Hispanics, 60 percent of Native Americans, and 47 percent of White, non-Hispanic students at two-year institutions required remediation,” according to the report, which is prepared annually for the legislature. Percentages for black and Hispanic students grew in 2008. Women have slightly higher rates of remediation than men.
Remediation costs at least $27.6 million a year, $14.6 million in state tax dollars and $13 million in tuition paid by students, the report said. (The actual cost is higher, because some remediation costs, such as summer school, weren’t included in the total.)
“It’s unfortunate,” said Gov. Bill Ritter, that money is spent on remediation “instead of investing those funds in financial aid, classroom instruction and innovative research. We can and must do better.”
Ritter has made reducing dropout rates, narrowing achievement gaps and increasing completion rates the centerpiece of his education policy. The Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids, passed earlier this year, is intended to improve the rigor of public education and more closely align high school education with college readiness. But that effort is its initial planning stages and won’t be fully implemented for about four years.
The worsening state financial situation also means that in the short term there will be little if any new money available for efforts to tackle the remediation rate and related problems.
While the remediation rate, ethnic gaps and cost issue are well know to many policy makers and educators, another, less-noticed set of statistics is equally troubling. Here’s what the report says about student success in remedial classes:
- At the two-year institutions, 41,224 students enrolled in remedial courses. Of these, 25,182 students (61 percent) passed the remedial courses, and the remaining 16,042 (39 percent) students failed, withdrew, took incompletes or audited the remedial courses.
- At the four-year institutions, 4,356 students enrolled in remedial courses. Of these students 2,578 (59 percent) passed the courses, and the remaining 1,778 (41 percent) failed, withdrew, took incompletes or audited the courses.
- At all institutions, 45,580 students enrolled in remedial course work. Of these, 27,760 (61 percent) passed the remedial courses, and 17,820 (39 percent) failed, withdrew, took incompletes or audited the courses.
And, here are the statistics on the retention rates of students who have to take remedial classes:
- At the two-year institutions, the retention rate for all first time students is 43 percent compared to 48 percent for first time students assigned to remediation.
- At the four-year institutions the retention rate for all first time students is 72 percent compared to 55 percent for first time students assigned to remediation.
- At all institutions the retention rate for all first time students is 64 percent compared to 52 percent for first time students assigned to remediation.
- At two-year schools, 53 percent of students had to take at least one remedial course. The overall rate was about 21 percent at four-year schools.
- Over the last four years, the state’s overall remediate rate has remained at about 30 percent, while ranging between 53 and 56 percent at two-year schools and 18 to 21 percent at four-year institutions.
- At two-year schools, 16 percent of entering students were assigned to remediation in all three subjects: math, reading and writing. About 3 percent of entering students at four-year institutions were assigned to remediation in all three areas.
- Looking at individual colleges, remediation rates ranged from a “low” of 44 percent at Arapahoe Community College to a high of 69 percent at Pueblo Community College, with a low of 0.5 percent at CU-Colorado Springs to a high of 67 percent at Adams State College.
The report also tabulates remediation rates by where students went to high school. The lowest rate was 5.6 percent at Jefferson County’s D’Evelyn High School; the highest was 80.8 percent at Denver’s West High.
How does Colorado compare?
Analyzing where Colorado stands relative to other states can be tricky, given that you can’t be sure that data are comparable.
But, an August 2006 by the Alliance for Quality Education, quoting 2004 federal statistics, said, “42 percent of community college freshmen and 20 percent of freshmen in four-year institutions enroll in at least one remedial course.”
A brand-new study by the ACT testing service concludes that students who aren’t on track by the 8th grade aren’t likely to be ready for college by the time they graduate from high school. Previous studies by the group have found only about half the students who take the 11th grade ACT test are ready for college-level reading assignments.
Remediation isn’t a new problem. Stanford University education scholar Michael Kirst, noted in an online column last year that the remediation rate in 1992 was 61.1 percent at community colleges and 25.3 percent at four-year schools. (Read the whole column for an informative take on this issue.)
Do your homework:
Read the full CCHE report here (34-page PDF). See page 6 for college-by-college details, page 9 for annual comparisons and page 7 and 8 for useful Venn diagrams showing percentages of students taking one, two or three remedial classes. High school stats start on page 18.
Remember that the report probably doesn’t capture the full extent of the remediation problem. The document notes “the data do not include recent graduates who enrolled in an out-of-state college, delayed entry into higher education for at least one year after completing high school, were not assessed [for remedial needs],” or for whom data was missing.