Colleges taking new approach to remedial education

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 4:34 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - The number of students coming out of high school needing remedial courses to make it in college is dropping. According to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, the number of students needing remedial courses in college has dropped by from around 49 percent to 22 percent, especially at community colleges.

Nearly a quarter of students who get into college in Alabama, aren’t prepared to take college level math or English classes.

Jim Purcell with the Alabama Commission on Higher Education says before, these students were enrolled in remedial classes that were often time consuming.

“And they had to go through the whole gauntlet to get through English 101 or the first math course and it just took a lot of time,” said Purcell.

Over time, higher education realized the ‘medicine’ seemed to do more harm than good, so they changed the model. Purcell credits the community college system in Alabama for turning it around.

“So now what we do, we allow them, or at least most of the students placed in the development, into the college course and then we provide supplemental instructions by having labs and address the academic need at that particular time,” Purcell said.

Another way to look at this is the fact that colleges and universities are tackling remedial education through what’s known as ‘co-requisite’ courses, a blend of remedial courses with traditional coursework. The new approach seems to be working: more students are graduating from college on time and it has reduced the number of courses students would have had to take otherwise.

“Our belief is, and we’re still studying it, it’s going to increase the graduation rate and the success of these individuals. And I would say the community college system did a very thoughtful analysis, because there had to be a lot of conversations among faculty and staff to get the buy-in,” Purcell said.

Another major benefit from this model, according to Purcell, is the confidence students often feel. It helps reinforce the belief ‘I can do it’, and that can make all the difference.


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