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Missouri Community Colleges Coping With Remedial ‘Epidemic’

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Higher education leaders in southwest Missouri say freshmen in the region are increasingly unprepared to pass basic college-level courses.

A Springfield News-Leader newspaper examination of grades over the past several months found that in many cases, a majority of students can’t pass basic courses.

At Springfield-based Ozarks Technical Community College, 2,200 out of 3,000 incoming freshmen needed a remedial algebra class and another 1,200 needed help in English last year. Only 35 percent passed a remedial math class.

“It’s an epidemic,” said Ellen Newby-Hines, director of the academic achievement center at the community college that tutors students who need help in order to pass basic algebra, English and other classes.

At Missouri State University, as many as 29 percent of the students taking a basic algebra class over a three-semester span failed to score better than a D. Overall, 22 percent of the 2,200 students scored a D or F in basic math or English during that time.

“Students are just not prepared,” said Dr. Jim Kellerman, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association. He noted that the problem is prevalent across the state and the country.

Ozarks Technical Community College and Missouri State University have formed task forces to help students do better in basic algebra and English classes or to help students be more successful overall in their first year in college.

“We want to examine the best practices used across the country and who has the best programs,” said Dr. Randy Humphrey, vice president of academic affairs at the community college. “We want to glean what the ideas are and improve what we’re already doing.”

The state’s A+ program, which allows students to go to a community college for free if they meet certain requirements, has opened the doors to a lot more students who might not be prepared for college, said Kellerman, with the Missouri Community College Association.

“It was designed to improve the overall quality of education. Maybe not enough time has gone by to judge that. We’re finding a significant amount of students who are not prepared for math and English,” he said.

–Associated Press

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