In 2012, Complete College America called remediation higher education’s "bridge to nowhere," one that fails to provide too many underprepared students with a path to a college degree. This week, the nonprofit made a case for a new bridge to success for these students — the corequisite model — highlighting five states that have taken programs to scale and seen incredible results.
Nationwide, the need for some type of solution is clear. More than 40% of all students enter college needing some type of remediation. That rises to 55% of Pell Grant eligible students, 56% of black students, and 45% of Latino students. Even 36% of those coming directly from high school need= developmental education courses.
“For most of these students, remediation will be their first and last college experience — a reality that is disproportionately true for low-income students and students of color,” write the authors of Complete College America's latest report, "Corequisite Remediation: Spanning the Completion Divide."
Community colleges, especially, have experimented with alternatives to the traditional developmental education model. In Florida, the state legislature banned schools from requiring remedial courses entirely. Some schools have moved away from placement tests. The corequisite model, however, offers students direct entry into college-level courses with academic supports. It does away with non-credit prerequisites that extend the time and cost of higher education for students in need of developmental education.
In West Virginia, one of the five states highlighted by Complete College America as “bridge-builders,” the entire community and technical college system has shifted to corequisite remediation. System Chancellor Sarah Tucker said 64% of students enroll in one of the system schools requiring some form of remediation. For students enrolled in remedial English during the fall of 2011, only 37% of them went on to complete the associated gateway course within two years and, among remedial math students, it was just 14%. Historically, just 13% of students who started in remedial education graduated within six years.
In an ambitious plan to scale corequisite remediation, Tucker called on all of the community and technical colleges to shift their remedial education delivery model in one year. To her surprise, they all did, and the results were immediate.
In the fall of 2014, the portion of students in need of remedial English who went on to complete the associated gateway course rose from 37% to 68%. For math, the jump was from 14% to 62%.
“In all of my years doing research about higher education,” Tucker said,” I have never seen results like this. You simply don’t see that type of progress happen that quickly in higher education.”
In Tennessee, the original numbers were about the same and the results with corequisite remediation were as impressive. The Tennessee Board of Regents started with a pilot at 10 community colleges during the 2014-15 school year, seeing incredible success. For students enrolling with a very low ACT score of 13, the corequisite math model helped boost the portion of students completing a gateway math course from 2.7% to 58%. Among those who enrolled with an ACT score of 18, 26% went on to complete the gateway math course under the prior, prerequisite model, compared to 78% under the corequisite model.
Tristan Denley, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents, said the same gains could be seen across low-income, underrepresented minority, and adult student populations. What’s more, the Board of Regents can now look at fall-to-fall retention rates for this population, one year later. Among students who got supports through corequisite remediation, 69% returned for a second year, compared to 47% for those who did not participate in the pilot.
“That’s a stubbornly difficult number to move at all,” Denley said, adding that most schools are happy with a 1-2% retention rate increase, but his institution has seen a 45% increase in this group of students.
"Spanning the Completion Divide" provides more information about West Virginia and Tennessee, along with the work being done in Georgia, Indiana, and Colorado. The report also allows users to search for information by state and institution type and it features an interactive tool that lets users see what’s possible at their own institutions, using success rates from the five states.
The report is meant to be used as a guide for any colleges or systems considering making a shift. It includes contact information for “bridge-builders” who have implemented these strategies in their own institutions, and offers six key pillars that should make up the foundation for corequisite remediation programs.
Besides the five states highlighted in the report, Complete College America has 13 more states committed to scaling the same strategies by the 2017-18 school year.
“We’re confident we’re going to fundamentally change the way we deliver remedial education in this country,” said Bruce Vandal, senior vice president at Complete College America.
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