A recently released national report estimates that 42 percent of community college freshmen and 20 percent of freshmen in four-year institutions have to take at least one remedial course. All told, roughly one out of every three college freshmen has to complete a remedial course, according to “Paying Double: Inadequate High Schools and Community College Remediation,” an issue brief published by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Remedial classes pose burdensome costs on the students who take them, the schools those students attend and on the U.S. economy, the issue brief contends. The annual cost of remedial education at community colleges alone totals more than $1.4 billion. The brief, which was developed with support from the MetLife Foundation, reports that the nation loses nearly $2.3 billion annually in wages due to the reduced earnings potential of students whose need for remedial reading render them less likely to leave college with a degree.
“When high school graduates require remediation, they lose a year and taxpayers are paying twice for the same education,” says Bob Wise, the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.
According to the brief, the leading predictor that a student will leave college without a degree is whether or not the student requires remedial reading. Fifty-eight percent of students who take no remedial education courses earn a bachelor’s degree within eight years, while just 17 percent of students who take a remedial reading course earn a B.A. or B.S. within the same time period.
The brief suggests that improving the nation’s high schools could lessen the number of students who will require remedial classes in college. It also singles out inadequate K-12 curricula, unclear standards and lack of alignment between high school content and the expectations of colleges and employers as factors that fuel the need for remediation. Students who complete a rigorous high school curriculum are less likely to need remedial courses than students whose course load is less demanding.
“Raising academic standards benefits all students and promotes a healthy economy,” Wise says. “It’s not enough to increase the number of high school graduates. We must also make sure the diploma they’ve earned has truly readied them with essential skills and knowledge. We can no longer afford to play high school catch-up at the college level.”
The report can be accessed at www.all4ed.org/publications/remediation.pdf.
— By Ronald Roach
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