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College Remediation Rates: 12 Upsetting Facts

by Darko Jacimovic

There’s no need to beat around the bush: college remediation rates in the US are, to say the least, disappointing. Before going through the facts and statistics listed below, readers should be aware that 75% of students required to take remedial college classes fail to graduate.

College remediation has become so prominent that it’s no longer regarded as an impolite topic to discuss. Every college student in America has either been in the program as a freshman, or they know multiple people who were.

The statistics listed below show the numbers related to remediation while answering some of the key questions associated with this topic:

College Remediation Rates – 5 Key Statistics and Facts

  • 60% of community college students take at least one remedial course.
  • Around 33% of those in 4-year public colleges take a remedial course.
  • More than 50% of students in 2-year schools are required to take at least one remedial course.
  • African American, Latino, and low-income students are more likely to attend remediation programs.
  • Remediation courses are so ineffective that less than 10% of remedial students in a 2-year school graduate within 3 years.

Remediation in Higher Education

college remediation rates - library

1. 32 million American adults can’t read.

(National Center for Education, Huffpost, World Atlas) 

According to the last National Assessment of Adult Literacy (2003), 14% of Americans are below the basic literacy level, and 29% can be placed in the basic level reading group. This makes the US 125th on the list of countries by literacy rate. Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Barbados, Uzbekistan, and 20 other countries share the first spot on this list, with the literacy rate rounding up to 100%.

2. Around 60% of community college students take at least one remedial course.

(The Hechinger Report) 

Unfortunately, the latest college remediation rates show that 60% of incoming community college students are unable to handle college-level English or math. This represents a huge issue and stands to show how flawed the high school system is, especially in public schools. The number of students who graduate high school without reaching a satisfactory level of literacy or mathematics is simply staggering.

3. Remedial education costs students $1.3 billion per year overall.

(Center for American Progress, National Bureau of Economic Research)

In the case of developmental education, statistics show that around $7 billion is spent on unprepared students every year. Federal financial aid covers no more than 30 hours of these classes per student, meaning students from the US pay over a billion dollars out-of-pocket to take remedial courses.

4. 56% of African American students require remedial education.

(Center for American Progress)

Unfortunately, remedial education is even more pronounced among students of color, as well as among those with a low household income. African American students are the most likely to require remediation courses. Meanwhile, 45% of all Latino students are placed in these programs, and 35% of white students go into remedial classes for English, math, or both.

5. Florida eliminated placement exams and remedial college courses in 2013.

(Inside Higher Ed) 

College remediation rates in the state of Florida were a cause for concern. That’s why the state decided to introduce gateway courses, which count toward college credits, instead of remedial classes. two-year colleges were also legally obligated to substitute remedial courses with credit-bearing ones. In 2019, six years after this move, we found out that it worked, as 6% more freshmen were able to pass English Composition, Intermediate Algebra, and Gateway Math.

6. 50% of Ohio students whose household income is lower than $18,000 are placed in remedial courses.

(APM Reports)

The college remediation rates by state show that half of the public college students from Ohio whose families earn less than $18,000 per year are placed in remediation programs. The rate is significantly lower for those whose families make over $100,000 annually, at 18%.

7. 80% of California community college students are placed into remediation.

(PPIC) 

In California, the community college remediation rates have drastically different numbers for various public schools in the state. For California’s community colleges, the rate of those who need to take remedial courses is 80%. Meanwhile, for California State University, the percentage is around 30%, while for the University of California, less than 10% of new students go into remediation.

Remedial Course-Taking at US Public 2- and 4-Year Institutions: Scope, Experiences, and Outcomes

college remediation rates - books

8. Just 31% of community college remedial math students advance to college-level courses.

(Hechinger Report)

Less than a third of all community college students who are placed in a remedial math program will ever be able to continue on to college-level courses in this subject. The odds are so stacked against them that less than 25% of them will earn a degree within the following eight years. 40% of their peers who were not placed in remedial classes will earn a degree in eight years, the current trends in developmental education demonstrate.

9. Over 50% of students attending 2-year schools must take remedial classes.

(Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

In the US, more than half of two-year school attendees, and around a third of those starting at a four-year public college are required to take remedial courses. Similar to community college students, the likelihood of them graduating is abysmal.

10. Just 9.5% of 2-year students taking remedial courses graduate within 3 years.

(Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)

Less than 10% of those starting at a two-year college with the disadvantage we’re discussing today will graduate within 3 years. Attendance data on remedial math and remedial English in college students shows that the situation is a bit brighter for those in four-year institutions: 35.1% of them graduate within six years.

11. 14% of community college remedial students transfer to a 4-year college.

(Hechinger Report)

The percentage of community college students in remedial courses who decide to transfer to a four-year school is equal to the number of community college students who were not in these programs and did the same.

12. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $110 million toward improving remedial education.

(Hechinger Report)

Remedial education in college campuses around the US is, luckily, receiving attention from those who are able to help improve it. Bill and Melinda Gates are just some of the wealthy people who want to see the remediation process improve. In order to replace the programs that don’t work, and improve those that do, this pair of philanthropists has pledged the sum of $110 million.

FAQ

college remediation rates - girl
1. What does remedial mean?

The word “remedial” has two main meanings. The first one stands for something that is given as a remedy or a cure (remedial surgery), and it relates to this topic on a more philosophical level. The second meaning is what we’re interested in: it stands for something that needs to be corrected.

2. What is remediation in college?

(Wikipedia)

Remedial education is a program designed for students who need additional help to reach the competency level of their peers. The students that remedial programs include are those who require more personal and individualized instructions beyond what’s usually taught in class. Remedial education helps students with special needs, as well as any students who struggle with core academic skills, no matter why. Remediation is also referred to as developmental education, academic upgrading, basic skills education, compensatory education, and preparatory education.

3. How many students take remedial courses in college?

(Hechinger Report)

Over 200 campuses across the US enroll more than 50% of their new students in remedial courses. In public colleges, more than half a million of incoming students are not prepared to take on college-level classes in core subjects. This number includes students from 44 US states, for both two- and four-year public colleges.

4. What is remedial English in college?

(seattlepi)

Sadly, thousands of students graduate high school and start college with insufficient knowledge in reading and writing. This makes them unable to place into college-credit English classes. This is where remedial education steps in, providing additional preparation for those students. Taking remedial English isn’t uncommon—in some US states, up to 90% of students take one of these classes.

5. What’s the lowest math class in college?

(University of Houston–Victoria, Washtenaw Community College)

Remedial math classes work on the same basis as English classes. Students struggling with the basics are assigned to these classes in order to be prepared for college-credit math classes. Here’s the shortened list of college-level math classes, ranked from introductory to advanced:

  • Precalculus (preparation for Calculus)
  • Calculus I and II (derivatives of functions, introduction to integrals, integrals)
  • Linear Algebra (matrices, vectors, linear transformations)
  • Abstract Algebra (required class for math majors, intro to the study of abstract objects in mathematics)
  • Probability (teaches the application of math in finance, engineering, etc.)
6. Why is remediation a problem?

(Forbes, US News)

Remedial classes cost a fortune, although students can receive some financial aid for non-credit remedial course work. This is just one of the problems with remediation. An even bigger issue is the fact that remedial college classes and programs, as shown by the statistics in this text, can be wildly unsuccessful.

Conclusion

College remediation rates in America are certainly a cause for concern. They’re a clear indicator of the socio-economic divide in the country, and they demonstrate the extent to which this problem needs to be attended to. The higher education system in the US needs to work together with K–12 schools to ensure that future generations use these courses less.

Sources:

https://nces.ed.gov/naal/estimates/index.aspx

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/illiteracy-rate_n_3880355

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-highest-literacy-rates-in-the-world.html

https://hechingerreport.org/for-community-college-students-who-struggle-with-arithmetic-some-solutions/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/news/2018/01/09/444582/reform-remedial-education/

https://www.nber.org/papers/w18457.pdf

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/reports/2016/09/28/144000/remedial-education/

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/03/29/remedial-education-progress-florida-still-leaves-unanswered-questions

https://www.ppic.org/publication/remedial-education-in-californias-colleges-and-universities/

https://www.apmreports.org/story/2016/08/18/remedial-education-trap

https://postsecondary.gatesfoundation.org/areas-of-focus/innovation/remedial-education/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remedial_education

http://postsecondary.gatesfoundation.org/remedial/

https://hechingerreport.org/colleges-enroll-students-arent-prepared-higher-education/

https://education.seattlepi.com/remedial-english-classes-community-college-1104.html

https://www.math.uh.edu/~tomforde/MathClasses/MathClasses-List.html

http://departments.wccnet.edu/math/class-sequence/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2018/10/22/remedial-education-

escaping-higher-educations-hotel-california/#11ce83685f20

http://usnews.com/news/articles/2014/07/03/schools-and-colleges-still-struggle-to-reduce-the-need-for-remedial-education

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