May 202011

By Tammy Gray-Searles–

Arizona loses $132 million each year on remedial college education, according to the Alliance for Excellence in Education.

A report issued May 5 notes that the state spends $81 million each year to provide remedial college courses designed to fill in the gap between high school and higher education. An additional estimated $51 million is lost per year in lifetime wages that remedial college students never earn because they don’t earn a degree.

“Nationwide, about 40 percent of all first-year students will need remedial education before they can enroll in credit-bearing courses,” the report notes. “Compared to peers who are not in need of remediation, students who must take remedial courses are about half as likely to graduate. Indeed, even in the case of students with similar skill levels, the more remedial courses students have to take, the less likely they are to graduate.”

The study points out that in the case of remedial college classes, taxpayers are actually paying twice for the same education since students are essentially taking high school classes from public colleges.

“Not only is remediation an ineffective solution to the preparation and gap problem, it is also a wasteful use of public and private dollars. Helping students catch up to the expectations of postsecondary work affects the nation’s overall economic strength and involves significant costs for taxpayers, postsecondary institutions and students,” the report notes. “Remedial courses represent a cost that taxpayers must pay twice: first for students to learn material in high school and then again for students to relearn that material at the post secondary level. And the price tag is not small. It is estimated that, nationally, the cost of remediation in public institutions for students enrolled in the 2007-08 school year alone was $3.6 billion.”

Students enrolled in two-year or community colleges are more likely to be enrolled in remedial courses, with the report indicating that in 2008, nearly 44 percent of students under age 25 were enrolled in at least one remedial course.

The alliance suggests that to save money, strengthen the economy and ensure individual success, the gap between high school classes and college courses needs to be filled.

According to the report, schools should focus on three main areas, including cognitive strategies, key content knowledge and academic behaviors. It explains that key cognitive strategies include critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while key content knowledge includes not just the memorization of facts, but “understanding the big ideas that define a discipline.” Academic behaviors are defined as study habits and commitment to completing coursework, as well as understanding and accepting critical feedback.

“At a time when states are searching for deficit cutting tools and businesses are requiring a well-educated workforce, the nation must work together to align secondary school standards to postsecondary demands so that every student can graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or careers,” Alliance for Excellent Education President and former governor of West Virginia Bob Wise said. “The potential cost-savings of eliminating the need for remediation are too great to ignore.”