It’s a tough lesson for millions of students arriving on campus: Even if you have a high school diploma, you may not be ready for college.
In fact, says a report from the Washington-based group Strong American Schools, one-third of college students have to enroll in remedial classes. The bill to colleges and taxpayers for trying to bring them up to speed comes to between $2.3 billion and $2.9 billion annually, the Sept. 15 report says.
“That is a very large cost, but there is an additional cost and that’s the cost to the students,” said Roy Romer, the chairman of Strong American Schools.
“These students come out of high school really misled. They think they’re prepared. They got a 3.0 and got through the curriculum they needed to get admitted, but they find what they learned wasn’t adequate,” said Mr. Romer, a former Colorado governor and Los Angeles school chief.
The problem of colleges devoting huge amounts of time and money to remediation isn’t new, though its scale and cost have been hard to measure.
The latest report gives somewhat higher estimates than some previous studies, though they are not out of line with trends suggested in others, said Hunter Boylan, an expert at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, who was not connected with the report.
Analyzing federal data, the report estimates 43 percent of community college students require remediation, as do 29 percent of students at public four-year universities, with higher numbers in some places. For instance, three in five students in the giant California State university system need help in English, math, or both, the report says.
The cost per student runs to as much as $2,000 in community colleges and $2,500 in four-year universities.
A version of this article appeared in the September 24, 2008 edition of Education Week