College remediation costs $5.6 billion a year, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education. That includes $3.6 billion to provide remedial classes at two-year and four-year colleges and an additional $2 billion in lost lifetime wages because remedial students are more likely to drop out of college.
“Remediation is paying for the same education twice,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “It is a wasteful use of public and private dollars and an unrealistic solution to closing the preparation gap between high school and college. Doing it right the first time by delivering a high-quality high school education improves the chances of long-term success for students and for communities.”
One third of college students — 44 percent at public two-year colleges and 27 at public four-year institutions — take at least one remedial class.
“I do not teach remedial or developmental classes,” he explains, “and cannot transform my bona fide honest-to-God fully accredited college class into one.” He admits that he fudges nonetheless, sneaking in a great deal of “hidden remediation.” But 15 weeks is not enough time to bring many of his students up to speed, and he wonders about remediation generally, citing a study of Ohio community colleges that came to the tellingly modest conclusion that “remediation does not appear to have a negative effect.”
. . . Even in positive evaluations of X’s courses, though, his students offer revelations like: “Before this I would of never voluntarily read a book. But now I almost have a desire to pick one up and read.”
X wonders how to grade “a college student who progresses from a 6th- to a 10th-grade level of achievement?” He gives F’s.
At best, X’s students will earn low-prestige, low-value degrees. At worst, they’ll be discouraged, degree-less, debt-ridden, uneducated and unemployable.
A college-readiness campaign in high schools has cut the number of low-level remedial math students at El Paso Community College. But very few high school graduates at EPCC are ready for college math. The numbers are much better for writing and somewhat better for reading.
Also on Community College Spotlight: A new study finds community college placement tests aren’t very accurate for remedial students.