The percentage of first-time college students assigned to remedial education before embarking on college courses continues to drop, according to the latest data provided by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE).
The data follows Spring 2017 graduates of Alabama high schools who enrolled at Alabama public colleges in the fall after graduation. The data indicate that 28 percent of those who enrolled in higher education were required to take a course in either remedial math or remedial English or both.
A remedial course is designed to bring students up to the educational level needed to succeed in a college course. That percentage needing remediation is down from 34.6 percent in 2011. This drop in remedial rates is occurring at a time when high schools have driven up graduation rates and have sent additional students to college.
Remediation rates are calculated for two subjects: math and English. The most progress has been made in decreasing the percentage of students having to take remedial English. In 2017, the percentage of students needing remedial courses in English dropped to 14 percent, down from 17 percent in 2013.
The percentage of enrolled students taking remedial math also declined to 24 percent in 2017, compared to 26 percent in 2013.
Why the Remediation Rate is Important
With the implementation in 2012 of Plan 2020, the state’s strategic plan for higher education, K-12 educators set a goal of driving down the number and percentage of students required to take remedial education. Providing remedial courses in college duplicates cost to the state, and remedial education drives up the cost of college for students and families. Remedial courses, since they cover high school level material, don’t count toward a college degree.
The continuing progress on rates of remedial education is noteworthy since it has come during a period in which high schools are charting higher graduation rates. Those higher graduation rates have prompted concern that, in some instances, schools might be lowering standards for graduation in order to show higher graduation rates. However, this data suggests that the students who are going on to college are entering better prepared.
When high schools do a better job of preparing students for college-level work, it produces savings for the student, their parents, and the education system in general.
Higher Education Working to Lower Remediation Rates
The decline in the remediation rate may also be influenced by changes taking place at colleges. Both two and four-year colleges are implementing measures aimed at decreasing the number of students needing remedial courses.
Approaches include using new assessments that identify students’ areas of weakness and prescribe specific remedial material rather than requiring a whole course. Colleges are also developing extra aid courses that can be taken in tandem with college-level English or math. The supplementary course can provide the extra help that some students need while allowing the student to proceed on the regular college track. The community college system is also partnering with some high schools to offer college prep courses in high school. If high school student earns a B in that college prep course, he or she is considered qualified to start college-level work.
Explore on Your Own
In the visualization below, you can explore the statics for remediation for local schools and systems. You can sort each column from low to high or in alphabetical order by using the tool on top of each column.
Bear in mind that the ACHE report only captures high school graduates who enrolled in the fall after their graduation in Alabama public colleges. The remediation rates for schools that send significant numbers of students to private colleges or to out-of-state colleges will not necessarily reflect the outcomes for the entire graduating class.