13 Upsetting Stats About College Remediation Rates [2021]

There’s no need to beat around the bush — college remediation rates in the US are disappointing. Before going through the facts and statistics listed below, readers should know 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 knows multiple people enrolled in a college.

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

Key College Remediation Rates — Editor’s Choice

  • There are 43 million illiterate American adults.
  • 60% of community college students take at least one remedial course.
  • Nearly 30% of African American students require remedial education in California community colleges
  • Florida eliminated placement exams and remedial college courses in 2013.
  • 25% of 4-year students taking remedial courses drop out.
  • 14% of community college remedial students transfer to a four-year college.

Remediation in Higher Education

1. 43 million American adults can’t read.

(National Center for Education, World Atlas)

According to the latest PIAAC study of adults aged 16–65, 8.4 million Americans are below the basic literacy level, and 26.5 million people 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%.

College Remediation Rates - Number of US Adults at Each Level of Proficiency on the PIAAC Literacy Scale

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

(The Hechinger Report)

Unfortunately, the latest college remediation rates show that more than half of incoming community college students cannot handle college-level English or math. This represents a huge issue and shows 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)

Regarding developmental education, statistics show that remedial education cost is between $400 million and $500 million per year. Moreover, these costs are not equally divided. Percentages of low-income, Hispanic and Black students who enter remedial education are significantly higher than that of their affluent or white peers.

4. Nearly 30% of African American students require remedial education in California community colleges.

(Inside Higher Ed)

Unfortunately, remedial education is even more pronounced among students of color. In fact, African American students make up a third of the students requiring remediation courses. Meanwhile, 24% of all Latino students and 20% of white students enroll in remedial classes.

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 that 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 first-year students were able to pass English Composition, Intermediate Algebra, and Gateway Math.

6. Michigan’s poorest districts have a remediation rate more than two and a half times higher than the wealthiest districts.

(The Education Trust)

The college remediation rates by the state show that the remediation rate in Michigan’s poorest districts is 39.1%. This number is far above the statewide remediation rate (24.8%). It’s also significantly lower in the state’s wealthiest districts — only 15.2%.

The latest findings suggest that nearly 4 in 10 students are enrolled in a college remediation course in districts with the highest concentration of students of color. This trend happens across the state, in both urban and rural areas.

7. 14,970 students older than 25 enrolled in a remedial course in Ohio.

(Ohio Higher Ed)

The latest accessible annual college remediation rates by state tell us Ohio has 3.7 million adults between 25 and 64 without a postsecondary credential. Moreover, Ohio’s colleges and universities have seen a decline in remediation rates for all age groups.

Namely, 14.8% of adults over 25 have taken remedial courses. Those between 22 and 25  make up 24.1% of all the students taking a remedial course, while those younger than 22 make up 24.5% of them.

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


In California, the community college remediation rates are drastically different for various public schools in the state. 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

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

(The Hechinger Report)

According to the latest available community college statistics, less than a third of all community college students placed in a remedial math program will be able to continue to college-level courses in this subject.

The odds are so stacked against them that less than 25% will earn a degree within the following eight years. In addition, 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.

10. 25% of 4-year students taking remedial courses drop out.


In the US, college students placed in remedial courses struggle to achieve academic success. In fact, one-fourth of four-year school attendees drop out of the remedial program. What’s more, only 37% of remedial students at four-year institutions go on to finish their introductory college courses.

11. Just 10% of two-year college students taking remedial courses graduate within three years.


A small percentage of those starting at a two-year college with the disadvantage we’re discussing today will graduate within three years. In addition, attendance data on remedial math and remedial English in college students shows that the situation is slightly brighter for those in four-year institutions — 35% of them graduate within six years.

College Remediation Rates - Remedial Course-Taking at 2- and 4-Year US Public Institutions

12. 14% of community college remedial students transfer to a four-year college.

(The Hechinger Report)

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

13. On-time completion rates for students taking remedial classes are less than 10%.

(Center for American Progress)

Remedial education in college campuses around the US requires a certain amount of students’ time. In fact, college student statistics suggest remedial classes increase their degree attainment time. Moreover, the likelihood of completion decreases.

Somewhere from 40% to 60% of first-year college students need remediation in English, math, or both. This means that a vast number of students have low chances of finishing college on time. The situation is even worse for low-income and students of color, whose remedial education rates are much higher than that of their white and well-off peers.


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. In addition, the higher education system in the US needs to work together with K–12 schools to ensure that future generations use these courses less.

We should try to prevent remediation classes by evoking interest in students and investing in colleges and universities.

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