Ohio to stop state funding for college remedial courses

by Grace

Remedial instruction is expensive and students are more likely to drop out of college.  Ohio’s response is to stop paying for it.

The annual price tag for remedial education in American colleges and universities is at least $3.6 billion, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education, a national advocacy organization in Washington. It’s also a reason that many college students quit in frustration, contributing to high dropout rates.

In a largely overlooked but precedent-setting move, cash-strapped Ohio has said it’ll soon stop footing the bill for remedial courses. The state’s 2007 budget quietly mandated that the government phase out money for remediation at four-year universities beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, and eliminate such funding altogether by 2020.

The gap between the skills with which students graduate from high school and what colleges expect them to be able to do has come under increased scrutiny, as federal policymakers push states to increase college graduation rates. At least 13 other states, including Florida, Missouri and South Carolina, have tried to slow the spiral of spending on remedial education, typically by restricting funding to colleges and universities that provide a lot of it….

Nationwide, some 44 percent of students at community colleges and 27 percent at four-year institutions had to take at least one remedial course in 2008, the last year for which data are available from the U.S. Department of Education. Even if students pass such remedial classes, research shows they’re less likely to graduate than their peers who start directly in college-level classes.

A high school diploma does not necessarily signify college readiness.

At Kent State— where just more than half of first-year students in 2006 had to take remedial courses in math, English or both — remediation costs more than $750,000 a year, an amount that Provost Robert Frank calls “non-trivial.”

“We are receiving students who successfully graduated from high school who aren’t ready for (college) math, writing and chemistry,” Frank said.

Ignoring the obvious solution
To address the remediation issue Ohio colleges are reaching out to private high schools that tend to produce college-ready students, or partnering  with community colleges that offer remedial course.  But there was no mention of actually tightening admission requirements to make sure that only qualified students are allowed in.  It seems the colleges are happy to take tuition payments from remedial students, but with decreased state funding the only alternative may be to raise prices for all students.  And so the higher education bubble continues to grow.

13 Responses to “Ohio to stop state funding for college remedial courses”

  1. I’ve seen several different ways of dealing with this.

    * Some states mandate that the flagship colleges can’t offer remedial classes. So, the colleges may offer them through their “continuing ed” branch or by joining forces with a nearby community college.

    * I’ve also seen where there is different (more expensive) tuition for remedial courses.

    Plus, in Oklahoma, high school concurrent enrollment cannot be used for remedial courses. If you want to take college classes while in high school then you must be taking college level classes.

    Remember that remedial courses may be appropriate for some students who finished high school years ago and need to brush up on academics again. The biggest problem is when recent high school graduates are not college ready.

    Raising the bar on admissions requirements would reduce enrollments and thus affect college funding (at least in most states — I hear that funding in California is completely unrelated to enrollment). Faculty want better prepared students, but they also want enough students to make their departments, majors, and classes viable.


  2. Students entering college are increasingly not recent high school graduates. I read recently that 40% of college students are older, nontraditional students – military vets, people who are working and need a degree to advance, people who can’t find work in their former field. I suspect those people make up the bulk of students in remedial courses. It is hard to blame the high schools – in many cases, such students simply haven’t looked at, say, algebra in 20 years. What to do with these students? If they are shut out of public universities, the private for-profits will be happy to set them up with massive loans in exchange for a piece of paper that means little… Is that what we want?


  3. “But there was no mention of actually tightening admission requirements to make sure that only qualified students are allowed in.”


    This is what community colleges are for. A four-year college is a terribly expensive place to do remedial courses.


  4. My dad says there are also a lot of waits for CC courses. It can be very time-consuming to collect the correct bundle of courses for a degree program.


  5. I don’t think there’s any way around it – if 4-year schools stop offering remedial courses it will hurt some students who may find it difficult to catch up on college level skills elsewhere. For older students, typically motivated and often needing flexible scheduling, I would think online courses would fit the bill in many cases.


  6. Raising the bar on admissions requirements would reduce enrollments and thus affect college funding (at least in most states — I hear that funding in California is completely unrelated to enrollment).

    Obama’s recently announced “Blueprint for Keeping College Affordable and Within Reach for All Americans” will put pressure on colleges to keep costs down and to improve graduation rates. Eliminating remedial instruction might be a path some schools take to help them in those goals.


  7. I didn’t know that online courses had been shown to be worse for retention. Intuitively, I could how that could be the case. I wonder how much worse.


  8. I’m sure there are many different factors at play, but the first thing that comes to mind is that you can’t protect people from themselves. How many of these dropouts would never have even tried a campus class? Easy come easy go? I’m sure some online courses are horrid, and dropping is easy to do with a click of the mouse.


  9. “The thing is, online courses are not cheap to run, and if students are dropping them, someone’s money is getting wasted, just the same as when students drop a face-to-face course. Given that remedial students tend to be more at risk of not finishing, shoving them into online courses seems like the wrong thing to do.”

    If there’s no way they can manage to schedule in a face-to-face class (because of child care issues, work schedule, transportation problems, whatever), then an online class is really the only option. I would expect that the online population has more of those problems than the face-to-face populations, and hence we can expect them to struggle more in any setting.


  10. Is the “right type of student” for an online course one who is highly motivated? I think we might all agree that online courses are here to stay, hopefully with continued improvement. But what are the student characteristics that increase their odds of successful completion.

    It strikes me as paradoxical that young people are so enamored with online social media, but online courses are experiencing such low retention rates. Probably partly due to lousy classes and partly low motivation. Chatting and posting pictures of your latest drinking party is so much more fun than doing algebra.


  11. This may sound a bit childish (and expensive), but maybe it should be set up like a video game, where you unlock levels and discover Easter eggs.


  12. Video game learning, of course! Now I’m wondering if this is the future of online learning . . .



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