74% of Colleges Offer Remedial Courses, E.D. Finds

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Washington--Seventy-four percent of the nation's colleges and universities offered remedial-education courses during the 1989-90 academic year, according to a new Education Department survey.

In the 1983-84 academic year, the report, published by the National Center for Education Statistics this month, notes, 82 percent offered remedial classes.

The report, entitled "College-Level Remediation in the Fall of 1989," does not explain the decrease, but notes that it corresponded with a drop in the number of students taking remedial courses.

The percentage of freshmen enrolling in remedial mathematics dropped from 25 percent in 1983-84 to 21 percent in 1989-90, the report says.

Enrollment in remedial reading dropped from 16 percent to 13 percent during the same period, and enrollment in remedial writing courses dropped from 21 percent to 16 percent, the survey found.

A total of 30 percent of all college freshmen took at least one remedial course in 1989-90, the report states.

Of 499 representative institutions asked to respond to the survey, 473 did so, according to the report.

Remedial education has long been a part of higher education, but it has become increasingly common since the 1970's, when the achievement levels of high-school students dropped and institutions began loosening their admissions policies.

More recently, since the mid-1980's, universities have increased their admissions standards in an attempt to reduce the amount of remediation they must provide. (See Education Week, May 15, 1991.)

The survey also found that:

  • Officials at more than half the institutions talked to high-school officials to let them know about the skills needed for college work, and 19 percent helped organize workshops for high-school faculty members.
  • Forty percent said they had no contact with high schools regarding remediation.
  • Remedial writing was required of certain students by 68 percent of the institutions; remedial mathematics, by 63 percent; and remedial reading, by 54 percent.
  • Two-thirds of the students enrolled in remedial courses passed them. Students in private or small schools were more likely to pass such courses than those in public or large schools.
  • At least one remedial course was offered at 91 percent of public colleges, 90 percent of two-year colleges, 64 percent of four-year colleges, and 58 percent of private colleges.

The report will be available from the Government Printing Office in about three weeks.

Vol. 10, Issue 35

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