Remedial Education – The Cost of Catching Up

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Author(s): The Center for American Progress

  • Laura Jimenez
  • Scott Sargrad
  • Jessica Morales
  • Maggie Thompson

Published: Sept. 28, 2016

Report Intro/Brief:
"Across the country, millions of students enroll in college every year only to learn that they need to take classes that will not count toward their degrees because they cover material that they should have learned in high school. According to the authors’ analysis for this report, these remedial courses cost students and their families serious money—about $1.3 billion across the 50 states and the District of Columbia every year. What is more, students who take these classes are less likely to graduate. Simply put, remedial education—or developmental education as it is also known—is a systemic black hole from which students are unlikely to emerge.

After defining remedial education, the authors briefly review the typical methods that institutions employ to identify students in need of remediation and the resulting national demographics of remediated students. Then, the report touches on national rates of progress through remedial education for major racial or ethnic and socioeconomic student groups before focusing on how much money students spend on these courses that do not count toward a degree. While there are certainly reforms to the design of remedial education in higher education institutions that could improve student retention and completion, the recommendations that conclude this report focus on other ways for the K-12 and higher education systems to eliminate the need for remedial education for recent high school graduates."