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Postsecondary Remedial Education

Postsecondary remedial education has been the subject of an ongoing debate among educators, policymakers, and the public. Central to this debate are issues regarding the extent to which entering students are underprepared for college-level work, the financial and human resource costs of remedial education to institutions, and, in general, the role of remediation in the curricula of 2-year and 4-year institutions (Hoyt and Sorenson 2001; Ignash 1997; Kozeracki 2002; Levin 2001; McCabe 2000; Roueche and Roueche 1999; Shults 2000).

This indicator presents data from the 2000 PEQIS survey and comparisons with the 1995 PEQIS survey on remedial course offerings and student participation in remedial programs. For the purposes of this study, remedial education courses were defined as courses in reading, writing, or mathematics for college-level students lacking those skills necessary to perform college-level work at the level required by the institution.1

Data from the 1995 and 2000 surveys indicate that no differences were detected in the proportion of institutions overall that offered at least one remedial reading, writing or mathematics course, or in the proportion of entering freshmen who enrolled in at least one of those courses during that time period.

In fall 2000, about three-fourths (76 percent) of the Title IV degree-granting 2- and 4-year institutions that enrolled freshmen offered at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course. In fall 1995, 77 percent2 of higher education institutions had offered remedial education courses (Lewis and Farris 1996; table 1).

Table 1. Number of degree-granting institutions that enrolled freshmen, and the percent of those institutions that offered remedial reading, writing, or mathematics courses, by institutional type: Fall 1995 and 2000


Year and institutional type Number of degree-granting institutions with freshmen Percent of institutions that offered remedial courses in:
Reading, writing, or mathematics Reading Writing Mathematics
2000
All institutions 3,230 76 56 68 71
Public 2-year 1,080 98 96 96 97
Private 2-year 270 63 37 56 62
Public 4-year 580 80 49 67 78
Private 4-year 1,300 59 30 46 49
1995
All institutions 2,990 77 57 71 72
Public 2-year 940 100 99 99 99
Private 2-year 330 64 30 62 62
Public 4-year 540 80 52 71 78
Private 4-year 1,180 62 33 52 50

NOTE: Data reported for fall 2000 are based on Title IV degree-granting institutions that enrolled freshmen in fall 2000. Data reported for fall1995 are based on degree-granting institutions that enrolled freshmen in fall 1995. The numbers of institutions have been rounded to the nearest 10.
SOURCE: Table 1 in U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Remedial Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2000, NCES 2004010, by Basmat Parsad and Laurie Lewis. Washington, DC: 2003

In fall 2000, twenty-eight percent of entering freshmen enrolled in at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course; in 1995, 28 percent3 of freshmen enrolled in at least one such course (Lewis and Farris 1996; table 2).

Table 2. Number of entering freshmen at degree-granting institutions, and the percent of entering freshmen enrolled in remedial courses, by subject area and institutional type: Fall 1995 and 2000


Year and institutional type Number of entering freshmen (in thousands) Percent of entering freshmen enrolled in remedial courses in:
Reading, writing, or mathematics Reading Writing Mathematics
2000
All institutions 2,396 28 11 14 22
Public 2-year 992 42 20 23 35
Private 2-year 58 24 9 17 18
Public 4-year 849 20 6 9 16
Private 4-year 497 12 5 7 8
1995
All institutions 2,100 28 12 16 22
Public 2-year 936 40 19 24 32
Private 2-year 53 26 11 19 23
Public 4-year 721 21 8 11 17
Private 4-year 389 12 5 7 8

NOTE: Data reported for fall 2000 are based on Title IV degree-granting institutions that enrolled freshmen in fall 2000. Data reported for fall 1995 are based on degree-granting institutions that enrolled freshmen in fall 1995. The numbers of institutions have been rounded to the nearest 10.
SOURCE: Table 4 in U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Remedial Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2000, NCES 2004010, by Basmat Parsad and Laurie Lewis. Washington, DC: 2003.

The NCES studies also found that remediation at most institutions was typically limited to one or two courses, and students generally spent 1 year or less in those courses. Data on the reported time spent in remediation suggest an increase in the average length of time that students spent in remedial education courses. Between 1995 and 2000, the proportion of institutions that reported an average of 1 year of remediation for students increased from 28 percent to 35 percent, while the proportion indicating an average of less than 1 year of remediation for students decreased from 67 percent to 60 percent (table 3).

Table 3. Among degree-granting institutions that offered remedial courses, percentage distribution indicating the approximate average length of time a student takes remedial courses at the institution, by institutional type: Fall 1995 and 2000


Year and institutional type Less than 1 year 1 year More than 1 year
2000
All institutions 60 35 5
Public 2-year 37 53 10
Private 2-year 84 11!
Public 4-year 62 35 3
Private 4-year 83 16
1995
All institutions 67 28 5
Public 2-year 45 44 11
Private 2-year 95 5 #
Public 4-year 69 28 3!
Private 4-year 84 14

# Rounds to zero.
! Interpret data with caution; coefficient of variation greater than 50 percent.
‡ Reporting standards not met; too few cases for a reliable estimate.
NOTE: Data reported for fall 2000 are based on Title IV degree-granting institutions that enrolled freshmen in fall 2000. Data reported for fall 1995 are based on degree-granting institutions that enrolled freshmen in fall 1995. Percents are based on institutions that offered at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course in that year. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding and not reporting where there are too few cases for a reliable estimate.
SOURCE: Table 5 in U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Remedial Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2000, NCES 2004010, by Basmat Parsad and Laurie Lewis. Washington, DC: 2003.

References

Hoyt, J., and Sorenson, C. (2001). High School Preparation, Placement Testing, and College Remediation. Journal of Developmental Education, 25(2): 26–33.

Ignash, J. (1997). Who Should Provide Postsecondary Remedial/Developmental Education? In J. Ignash (Ed.), New Directions for Community College, No. 100, (pp. 5–20). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Kozeracki, C. (2002). Issues in Developmental Education. Community College Review, 29(4): 83–100.

Lewis, L., and Farris, E. (1996). Remedial Education in Higher Education Institutions in Fall 1995 (NCES 97-584). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Levin, J. (2001). Globalizing the Community College: Strategies for Change in the 21st Century. New York: Palgrave.

McCabe, R. (2000). No One to Waste. Denver, CO: Community College Press.

Roueche, J., and Roueche, S. (1999). High Stakes, High Performance: Making Remedial Education Work. Washington, DC: Community College Press.

Shults, C. (2000). Institutional Policies and Practices in Remedial Education: A National Study of Community Colleges (ED447884). Washington, DC: American Association of Community Colleges.


1 Respondents were asked to include any courses meeting the definition, regardless of the course name. Other names for remedial education include “developmental education,” “compensatory education,” and “basic skills.”

2 The report used to develop this indicator, Remedial Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2000, cites this number as 78 percent, while Table 1 cites it as 77 percent. This discrepancy is due to a direct citation of archival data in the introductory text; in the 2000 report, 1995 data was reanalyzed to account for changes in the definition of “eligible institutions.” These changes are reflected in the tables of the report, but not the text. The indicator text has been edited to match the reanalyzed data reported in the tables.

3  The report used to develop this indicator, Remedial Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions in Fall 2000, cites this number as 29 percent, while Table 2 cites it as 28 percent. The indicator text has been edited to match the reanalyzed data reported in the tables. See Footnote 2.

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