Report: Community college students not prepared

A new report examines remedial course rates and national movements to reduce remedial enrollment.

Many community college students are not prepared to complete college-level work, do not succeed in remedial courses, and fail to attain their educational goals, according to a new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, only 39 percent of community college students earn a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree within six years. With that data in mind, the report seeks to understand community college students’ experiences with assessment, placement, and developmental education.

Expectations Meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges” features data from more than 70,000 community college student respondents across 150 institutions and more than 4,500 community college faculty respondents from 56 institutions.

That data reveals that 86 percent of surveyed students said they believe they are academically prepared for college success, but 67 percent of those surveyed require developmental or remedial courses, including 40 percent of surveyed students who reported a high school GPA equivalent to an A.

(Next page: National trends about student preparedness and remediation)

More than half of responding faculty said they use some form of early assessment to gauge students’ preparedness, but when they find students to be underprepared, only 6 percent of faculty recommend that those students change courses.

On a national scale, much discussion centers around remedial education. Many institutions are trying to help reduce the number of students in remedial courses and enroll students in gateway courses.

These efforts include:

  • A push to directly place all students in gateway courses with corequisite support
  • Legislative action that removes requirements for students to enroll in developmental courses
  • Partnerships with K-12 to reduce the number of students with a need for any remediation
  • Curriculum alignment processes that open the door to pathways for student progression

Some schools are rolling out new remedial programs and others contemplating a new form of remediation known as corequisite remediation.

Corequisite remediation involves students taking a developmental class while concurrently enrolled in a higher-level class. The report’s authors say this model accelerates progression through the developmental sequence.

Students who report being enrolled in corequisite English and math courses have higher engagement scores across all five Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) benchmarks. Although promising, the number of respondents enrolled in these types of courses varies widely across colleges.

“‘Expectations Meet Reality’ describes what is, and the innovative work featured in the report describes where we can be,” says Evelyn Waiwaiole, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement. “The bridge between developmental education and student success must be shortened. Redesigning the educational pathway for all students needs to be an urgent priority for colleges.”

Laura Ascione