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Remedial Education at Higher Education Institutions in Fall 1995
NCES 97584
October 1996

Highlights

The Survey on Remedial Education in Higher Education Institutions was requested by the Planning and Evaluation Service of the Office of the Under Secretary within the U.S. Department of Education. This survey was designed to provide current national estimates about the extent of remediation on college campuses. The study examined participation in college-level remedial education, characteristics of remedial courses and programs, and policies or laws that affect remedial education. Institutions provided information about their remedial program if they provided any remedial reading, writing, or mathematics courses in fall 1995. For purposes of this study, remedial courses were defined as courses in reading, writing, or mathematics for college students lacking those skills necessary to perform college-level work at the level required by the institution. Thus, what constituted remedial courses varied from institution to institution. Data were collected in fall 1995 from 2-year and 4-year higher education institutions that enroll freshmen and were weighted to provide national estimates.

  • About three-quarters (78 percent) of higher education institutions that enrolled freshmen offered at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course in fall 1995 ( table 1). Remedial courses were especially common at public 2-year institutions (100 percent) and institutions with high minority enrollments (94 percent). Public 4-year institutions also were important providers of remediation, with 81 percent providing at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course.
  • Remedial reading courses were offered by 57 percent and remedial writing and mathematics courses by about three quarters of higher education institutions that enrolled freshmen ( table 1). Almost all (99 percent) public 2-year institutions offered remedial courses in each subject area.
  • Most institutions that offered remedial reading, writing, or mathematics courses offered one or two different courses in a subject area in fall 1995 ( figure 1). The average (mean) number of courses offered was 2.1 for reading, 2.0 for writing, and 2.5 for mathematics ( table 2). Public 2-year institutions offered a much higher average number of courses than other types of institutions.
  • Twenty-nine percent of first-time freshmen enrolled in at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course in fall 1995 ( table 3). Remedial courses in mathematics were taken by more freshmen than were remedial reading and writing courses. There was a general pattern of higher remedial enrollments and lower remedial pass rates at public 2-year and high minority enrollment institutions. In general, about three-quarters of the students enrolled in remedial courses pass or successfully complete those courses ( table 6).
  • About half (47 percent) of institutions offering remedial courses indicated that the number of students enrolled in remedial courses at their institution had stayed about the same in the last 5 years, 39 percent said enrollments had increased, and 14 percent said they had decreased ( table 4). A greater percentage of public 2-year than of other types of institutions indicated that remedial enrollments had increased.
  • At most institutions, students do not take remedial courses for long periods of time: two-thirds of institutions indicated that the average time a student takes remedial courses was less than 1 year, 28 percent indicated that the average time was 1 year, and 5 percent indicated that the average time was more than 1 year ( table 5). Students were more likely to take remedial courses for a longer time at certain types of institutions than at others, with fewer public 2-year and high minority enrollment institutions reporting that students take remedial courses for less than 1 year.
  • Among the 22 percent of institutions that did not offer remedial reading, writing, or mathematics courses in fall 1995, the most frequent reason given was that remedial courses were not needed by students at the institution (66 percent; figure 3). About a quarter of the institutions indicated that students at the institution who need remediation take remedial courses offered by another institution (22 percent), and/or that institutional policy does not allow the institution to offer remedial courses (27 percent).
  • Institutional credit (e.g., credit that counts toward financial aid, campus housing, or full-time student status, but does not count toward degree completion) was the most frequent type of credit given for remedial reading, writing, or mathematics courses, with about 70 percent of institutions giving this type of credit in each subject area ( table 7).
  • The most frequently used approach for selecting students who need remedial coursework was to give all entering students placement tests to determine the need for remedial coursework; about 60 percent of institutions used this approach in each subject area ( table 9).
  • Remedial education services/courses were provided to local business and industry by 19 percent of institutions that enroll freshmen ( figure 7). However, among these higher education institutions, public 2-year institutions were the primary providers of remedial services/courses to local business and industry: half of public 2-year institutions provided these services, compared with only about 5 percent of other types of institutions.
  • A third of institutions offering remedial courses reported that there were state policies or laws that affected the remedial offerings of their institution, with many more public than private institutions reporting that they were affected (57 percent and 40 percent of public 2-year and 4-year institutions compared with less than 10 percent of private institutions; table 13). The major ways in which state policies or laws affected the remedial offerings was to require or encourage institutions to offer remedial education.
  • About a quarter of institutions reported that there was a limit on the length of time a student may take remedial courses at their institution ( table 14). Time limits on remediation were set by institutional policy at 75 percent of the institutions with time limits, and by state policy or law at 21 percent of the institutions.

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