MDRC in the News

States Are Testing Unproven Ways to Eliminate Remedial Ed — on Their Students

The Hechinger Report


Community colleges and nonselective universities that enroll everyone are at a crossroads. Helping less-prepared students make the jump to college-level work is a big part of their mission. In recent history, roughly half of first-year college students have been sent to remedial classes in math, English or both, according a 2016 Center for American Progress report. At the same time, remedial classes have been a giant bottleneck for students in getting their college degrees. For some, remedial requirements are an expensive waste of time that they don’t need. For others, they become a trap: Unable to progress to college-credit courses, many get discouraged and drop out, often with debt.

Policymakers have been trying to fix the system. Florida made remedial classes optional in 2014, letting students decide for themselves whether to take them. California took the bold step of ending required remedial classes in its community college system in 2018, allowing most students who had passed their high school classes to start with college-credit classes. North Carolina, Virginia and Minnesota have moved forward with big changes too. (A November 2019 report from the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) surveys many of the changes in remedial classes around the nation…..)

…..Dan Cullinan, a research associate at MDRC, a nonprofit research organization, says he is seeing the same trend in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with more students going straight into college classes and no big drop in pass rates…..

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