May 29, 2012 09:54 AM EDT
Remedial College Courses Need Fixing, Experts Say
Every year, approximately 1.7 million U.S. college students must take remedial classes to get them caught up for regular coursework. But a great deal of research shows the courses are eating up time and money, often leading not to degrees but student-loan pitfalls.
The costs of remedial courses are typically the same as regular classes, but don't fulfill degree requirements, and run about $3 billion annually, according to new research by Complete College America, a Washington-based national nonprofit working to increase the number of students with a college degree.
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The group says remedial classes are largely failing students. The group's research shows just 1 in 10 remedial students graduate from community colleges within three years and a little more than a third complete bachelor's degrees in six years.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in at least two states are pushing through changes and numerous institutions are redesigning changes.
Legislation passed earlier this month in Kansas prohibits four-year universities from using state funds to provide remedial courses.
The research comes as the cost of a college education continues to increase. The average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose an additional $631 compared with a year ago. The annual cost of a full-credit load has passed $8,000-an all-time high.
Research shows that placement exams routinely fail to identify whether a student needs a remedial course or not.
Some students who have been identified as needing remedial courses retook the exam and ended up qualifying for gifted programs the second time around.
The Complete College America report also says research shows half or more of remedial students would be better off being placed in required classes and having the schools building in extra help, such as tutors or more frequent class meetings.
The report says institutions using these approaches see their unprepared students succeed at the same rates as their college-ready peers.
Legislation passed earlier this month in Connecticut allows underprepared students to take full-credit, college-level courses with built-in supports, such as extended instruction, extra tutoring and mandatory labs.
Source: Boston.com; Associated Press