New report on remedial coursetaking at U.S. public institutions

A new report on Remedial Coursetaking at U.S. public 2-and 4 year institutions from the National Center for Education Statistics reports that participation in remedial coursework is widespread in the U.S. public higher education system with 41% of students starting at two-year institutions and 29% of students at four-year institutions having taken at least one remedial course during their undergraduate career. A “remedial” course is one that covers material considered to be high-school level, most typically in math or English writing.

Remediation costs

With an estimated annual cost of over $2 billion in remedial course taking nationally, and one in four students having to enroll in remedial coursework during their first year in college, it can become an expensive burden for students and families. The report found that participation was more common among several demographic groups, including Blacks and Hispanics (at two-and four-year institutions), students from low-income backgrounds (at two-and four-year institutions), first-generation students (at four-year institutions), and female students (at two-year institutions).  Remediation rates are also higher among institutions with an open admission policy or have less restrictive admissions policies. For institutions within the Utah System of Higher Education, the average rate of remediation is 25% for first-time freshmen who enroll the fall after high school graduation.

Remediation success

Not all students who enroll in remedial courses pass them. Only about 49% of remedial course takers beginning at two-year institutions completed all their attempted remedial courses. The remedial completion rate among those beginning at four-year institutions was somewhat higher at 59%. A USHE analysis published last year on remedial math reported that college students who required a remedial math course and met their math requirement had an equivalent rate of degree completion as those students who complete their math requirement without remediation or by other means (Concurrent Enrollment, AP/ACT, etc.). However, only 60% of those students completing remedial math go on to ultimately complete the general education math course for graduation. Further, only 40% who complete remedial math ultimately graduate.

USHE efforts to reduce remediation

The Board of Regents have been implementing several initiatives to reduce the number of students having to enroll in costly remediation courses and to get students better prepared for college during high school. USHE provides high school math recommendations, administers StepUP to Higher Education, a state-wide college preparation resource, administers the Regents’ Scholarship which encourages students to prepare for college academically and financially, and concurrent enrollment, which gives students an opportunity to complete their college math in high school—all which are tools to help reduce remediation.