$2 billion for remedial ed — and it doesn’t work

Remedial education costs community colleges $2 billion a year — and only a quarter of students go on to earn a credential. Colleges know it’s broke, but not how to fix it.

Colorado community colleges have improved success rates for remedial students. Unfortunately, more high school graduates require remediation.


About Joanne


  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    The Colorado CC’s have an assessment, self-paced, math lab, test process. That’s probably the distinguisher. It requires students take more individual responsibility for their progress rather than sitting in a classroom passively

  2. Among students with the same remedial test scores, those who start in college-level classes do as well or better as students who take remedial classes, they write.

    In other words remediation doesn’t work, and the problem isn’t that some students are or are not shunted to remedial classes, but that they’re admitted despite not being college material in the first place.

    • Correct. College can help you better use your mind, but it won’t make you smarter.

      I think the statement, “Colleges know it’s broke, but not how to fix it” is a bit misleading, as the “fix” is to eliminate it – to tell students in need of remedial training to attend a junior college or community college and to reapply when they’re ready. But at one end colleges don’t want to give up the revenue, and at both ends colleges are reluctant to implement policies that are likely to filter a lot of kids from economically disadvantaged communities out of their student body.

  3. Could you tell us where in the report it actually says that the cost of the unecessary remedial courses is $2 billion?

    I realize that the headline of your suimmary that you’re linking to makes this the main point, but I’ve read through the entiire report and can’t find it anywhere.

  4. Twelve years of non-education cannot be compensated for with two years of remedial coursework. Reading comprehension is a slow-growing plant, as E.D. Hirsch says; it requires years and years of exposure to a vast amount of vocabulary and concepts. It simply cannot be acquired quickly. Unfortunately, few educators understand the truth and power of Hirsch’s insight.