New research from the National Center for Education Statistics points to a drop over nine years in the percentage of college freshmen who had to take remedial classes.
According to the report, the rate of students taking remedial, or developmental, classes in their first year of postsecondary study decreased from 26.3 percent in 1999-2000 to 20.4 percent in 2007-08. But the trend wasn’t uphill all the way. Remedial coursetaking dipped to 19.3 percent in 2003-04 before ticking up again the next year.
Looking more closely, the federal study found that the lowest remedial-coursetaking rates were among white students. In 2007-08, the most recent academic year reviewed, 19.9 percent of white students reported enrolling in remedial classes while 30.2 percent of African-American students and 29 percent of Hispanics did.
The analysis also shows that students attending public four-year colleges were more likely to need remediation than those at private, not-for-profit schools. In 2007-08, the freshman remediation rate was 21 percent for public schools versus 15 percent at those kinds of private institutions. More often, students at two-year public schools were required to take noncredit-bearing classes to get up to speed compared with those at four-year public schools—24 percent compared with 21 percent.
The report notes some limitations of the analysis and cautions that the findings might not represent the full extent of the need for remediation. The numbers are based on self-reported data from students, because transcripts don’t always indicate whether a course was remedial, the study says.
A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2013 edition of Education Week as Fewer College Students Taking Remedial Classes