Colleges should outsource remedial ed

Colleges aren’t good at remedial education, writes Ohio University economist Richard Vedder. Few remedial students go on to earn a degree. Colleges should outsource remediation and concentrate on college-level instruction.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were developed for motivated, independent learners. Now the Gates Foundation is funding proposals to create MOOCs for remedial students.

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  1. Four-year colleges should have NO remedial courses and should admit only those students who are prepared (SAT/ACT scores, NOT grades) for college-level work. Even CCs should restrict admission to those likely to be able and motivated to obtain a degree or certificate. Anyone with knowledge and skills below about 10th grade should be handled, as they used to be, by the k-12 system – it used to be called night school. After all, the k-12 system passed them through without requiring mastery of anything – and they should get no additional funding. Put some of the surplus admins back into the classrooms.

  2. Why should CC’s limit admission to people earning a degree? These days CCs are de facto night schools and I don’t know any high schools that offer night classes. (Wait, I’m in CA which I think has a slightly different system?) I’m not sure that we should be measuring the success of remedial students by how many of them earn degrees; many of the remedial students I meet are learning to read, or learning to do basic math. Some have come out of prison. For them, enough literacy skills to get a GED-type job might be the criterion of success.

    If the CSU system started refusing students needing remedial coursework, the campuses would be a lot emptier for a while. CCs would burst at the seams. Hmmm.

    I have a hard time believing that MOOCs for remedial students would work. IME such students typically need a lot of personal support and help. But maybe I’m thinking of a lower level of skill than they are? Since I frequently help students who think the Hunger Games book is a difficult prospect, I may not be thinking of the same population they are.

  3. I’m in agreement with momof4…Colleges should not be in the business of supplying remedial education, unless the college itself sets up an extension campus which only takes students who need remedial education.

    IMO, a student ready for college level coursework should be capable of handing at a minimum for a 1st year course of study) the following classes:

    Math (finite, precalculus, stats, calculus)
    Science (Biology/Chemistry/Geology/Physics/Physiology/Astronomy) – i.e. lab sciences
    English 101/102 or technical/business writing
    History/Political Science 101/102
    Economics 101/102, Philosophy 101/102, Sociology/Psych 101 or a fine arts class.

    All of the above coursework is usually part of a general education core requirement for any student pursuing a field of study/certificate/or degree program.

    Students who have math and english skills which do not meet those requirements should not be admitted to college, unless though testing or placement exams they’re able to indicate they can handle the coursework in question.

  4. “Why should CC’s limit admission to people earning a degree? These days CCs are de facto night schools and I don’t know any high schools that offer night classes.”

    Yes, that’s right. I have two relatives who toil in the CC salt mines, and the work is largely remedial.

    I think degrees are really only half the game at a CC. Just filling in academic holes (learning to write literately, developing more confidence with computation, making some progress on ESL) can be immensely valuable for individuals, especially if they are young adults returning to the classroom after a long break.