Study should help defense of funding for remedial higher education – federal financial aid for remedial coursework

No more than 4 percent of federal financial aid given to freshmen
and sophomores goes toward remedial coursework, said the new report
from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) which conducts research
at the request of Congress.

Only 6 percent of freshmen and sophomores at 430 schools surveyed
receive both federal financial aid and remedial courses, the GAO
reported. Such remedial courses generally are designed to help students
raise math, reading and writing skills to levels they were expected to
attain in high school.

Many critics have sought to eliminate federal financial aid for
students enrolled in remedial coursework as a way to free up more
federal funds for financial aid. But the GAO said its survey responses
“raise questions about some preconceived notions about the relationship
between college remediation and financial aid.

“Though not definitive of the national picture, relatively few
financial aid dollars were associated with college remediation at the
schools responding to our survey,” the GAO added.

Based on these results, ending federal aid for remedial courses may
not represent a “meaningful” opportunity to better target federal
funds, the report said.

While the study showed the federal government is not a major funder
of remedial coursework, the GAO nonetheless found that students of
color represent a high share of remedial course enrollments. At many
institutions, minority students represent a larger proportion of
remedial students compared with their enrollment in the overall student
body.

The GAO documented the extent of minority involvement in several
case studies of various types of institutions. At one four-year
institution, for example, students of color represented 42 percent of
remedial course enrollments but only 19 percent of the student body.

At another four-year school, minorities accounted for 87 percent of
remedial enrollments but 42 percent of total enrollment. At one
two-year school, students of color represented 35 percent of remedial
enrollments and 20 percent of the student body.

Among the colleges and universities surveyed, most used mandatory
placement tests to assign students to courses “commensurate with their
skill level” before they enrolled in higher education. Some
institutions required students to complete remedial coursework in their
first term, while others allowed students to take such courses
throughout their college careers.

A copy of the report, Student Financial Aid: Federal Aid Awarded to
Students Taking Remedial Courses, is free from: GAO, P.O. Box 6015,
Gaithersburg, MD, 20884-6015; or call, (202) 512-6000. Ask for report
GAO/HEHS-97-142.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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