Fewer Incoming College Students Need Remediation, Research Shows

By Caralee J. Adams — January 04, 2013 2 min read
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New research out from the National Center for Education Statistics sheds light on incoming college students who are taking remedial or developmental classes and how the landscape has changed in the past decade.

The percentage of freshman who had to take remedial classes upon entering college dropped from 1999-2000 to 2007-2008 from 26.3 percent to 20.4 percent. Looking more closely, however, the NCES shows a dip in 2003-2004 when just 19.3 percent of new college students reported taking remedial courses before it ticked up again.

The First-Year Undergraduate Remedial Coursetaking report released Wednesday measured the frequency and change in remedial enrollment at U.S. postsecondary institutions, as well as looked at what kinds of students were lacking the skills to perform college-level work.

Within each year reviewed, the NCES found lower percentages of white students reporting taking remedial classes compared to black and Hispanic students. In the most recent years reviewed (2007-08), 19.9 percent of white students reported enrolling in remedial classes while 30.2 percent of black students and 29 percent of Hispanics did.

Also, the NCES found students attending public four-year colleges were more likely to need remediation than those at private not-for-profit schools. In 2007-2008, the difference was 21 percent in remediation at public schools versus 15 percent at private institutions. More often, students at two-year public schools (24 percent)were required to take non-credit-bearing classes to get up to speed compared to those at four-year public schools (21 percent.)

The report notes some limitations of the analysis and cautions that the findings might not represent the full extend of the need for remediation. The research is based on self-reported data from students, because transcripts don’t always indicate whether a course was remedial.

With the push to improve college completion, there has been attention focused recently on how to better determine course-level placement and successfully get more students through remedial classes.

On Wednesday, Ohio issued uniform statewide standard for students to be considered remediation-free for college-level English, writing, math and science. The standards were an effort to address the 41 percent of public high school graduates enter a state public college taking at least one remedial class in English or math. The Ohio Board of Regents set the bar with minimum test scores from the ACT, SAT, COMPASS and Accuplacer that students must meet to qualify to go directly into credit-bearing college classes.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.