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Summary of Remediation Report
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CCHE Report on Remediation
February 12, 2004

Below is the executive summary from CCHE on the remediation report that was presented to the Joint Education Committee this morning. This is timely considering the graduation requirements bill is up today and the mandatory 10th grade remediation bill is up tomorrow.

Executive Summary

Chapter 7 -- Remedial Education: Too much, not enough?
Few issues in American higher education have attracted as much attention in recent years as college-level remediation. In many ways, remediation stands at the center of the academic challenges that confront state policy makers, campus faculty and administrators.

If a student is inadequately prepared to enroll in college level courses, then it is difficult for these students to complete a baccalaureate degree program in four years. This paper addresses the central question posed by the General Assembly concerning remedial education: How much time and resources are devoted toward remedial education and is it needed? Remedial policy approaches used in other states are described. The chapter profiles the Colorado student who enrolls in one or more remedial classes and concludes with key findings and recommended practices.

Importance to the Legislature

From the legislative perspective, the key policy issues include cost, quality and institutional mission. The state’s bill for college level remediation in the current year is $19.8 million. A key question, therefore, concerns how much of higher education’s resource base is spent to provide remedial services to students under-prepared to enter college or who lack the skills necessary to complete their degree programs. Should the state support remedial education or should it be a cash enterprise? Which institutions should offer it?

HB99-1289 seeks to determine the scope of remedial education being offered in the higher education system, concern about the rising numbers of students needing remediation. This issue has been a long-term concern of legislative policy-makers in Colorado, the Commission on Higher Education, which has monitored remedial instruction for a decade, and nationally.

A 1995 Colorado Community Colleges and Occupational Education System (CCCOES) study established the first, system-wide demographic profile of remedial students. A 1997 survey conducted by the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) provides comprehensive information on state activities in remedial education.

By legislative directive, not all institutions may provide remedial instruction in Colorado. Institutions providing these services include the 15 community colleges, Adams State College and Mesa State College. Approximately 60 percent of Colorado institutions provide remedial courses in reading, writing and mathematics.

No statewide policy requires entering freshmen students to take placement tests, although by board policy, all full-time students enrolling in Colorado community colleges are required to take a placement test.

Key Findings

  • Colorado’s typical remedial education student profile is a Colorado resident, white, young and cannot meet CCHE statewide admission standards. Minority students are over-represented in this group.
  • Eighteen percent of all students enrolled in Colorado’s community colleges took one or more remedial classes in 1997-98.
  • The highest proportions of 1997-98 remedial students are found in urban/suburban community colleges.
  • Remedial education serves two different markets – the younger recently graduated high school student who lacks necessary math and writing skills and the older student returning to college who needs refresher courses.
  • While 29 percent of community college students are under 22 years old, 43 percent of students enrolled in remedial courses are under 22. Students between 22 and 35 are proportionally represented in remedial classes. Students over 35 are enrolled in remedial classes at higher rates.
  • Of the 18,000 students enrolled in remedial education in 1997-98, approximately six thousand (5,714) were recent high school graduates, i.e., graduated from high school in 1996 or 1997.
  • Colorado high school graduates account for a greater percentage of students enrolled in remedial education in 1997-98 than previously. In 1997-98, 48 percent were recent high school graduates compared to 42 percent in 1993-94.
  • Approximately 92 percent of students in remedial classes are classed as in-state students.
  • Sixty percent of the remedial students enrolled in only one remedial course while 23 percent enrolled in two remedial courses. Fifteen percent enrolled in three or more remedial courses.
  • A recent six-year study analyzed remedial student performance and non-remedial student performance (Karl Van Etten, 1997). After completing the remedial courses, the remedial students perform as well as non-remedial students in college-level math and English courses.

Policy Recommendations

Currently, Colorado supports remedial education at $19.8 million. More than 18,000 students were taking remedial instruction in the state. Community colleges are partnering with local school districts, providing feedback to the high schools on recent high school graduates who need remedial assistance to help identify weaknesses in K-12 curricula and improve learning for all students.

Colorado students are most likely to require remedial math instruction. By improving high school students’ mathematics skills, Colorado can potentially decrease the number of remedial students and the dollars spent to support remedial education.

Colorado should require students whose placement tests indicate a need for remediation to take those courses early by limiting the length of time students are eligible to qualify for financial aid and state support.

A uniform way of identifying remedial enrollments should be created and CCHE should track the academic progress of students who require remediation before beginning college level study to identify effective practices, including those delivered by technology.

Effective remediation is an indicator of the system performance; thus Colorado should incorporate this measure into its Quality Indicator System.

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