Posts tagged ‘Remedial education’

April 22, 2015

Too many unqualified students are helping drive up college costs

by Grace

Law professor Paul F. Campos editorialized about “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much”.

Funding for higher education “has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general”, but not enough to keep up with the “sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college”.  Administration costs have climbed at a faster rate than teaching costs, and a comment offers an explanation.

… When you expand the college rosters, you inevitably have to taken lower quality students, which then necessitates more support services to make sure these students have a reasonable chance of graduating. That costs money both in the service itself, and in the management of the service….

Admitting students unprepared for college-level work not only drives up costs, but also leads to lower standards and wasteful credential inflation.  Ultimately, remedial students who experience high drop-out rates “pay a heavy price, in both financial and opportunity costs”.

While it’s controversial and probably politically unfeasible, limiting college enrollment to qualified students would be one way to help rein in soaring college costs.

August 7, 2013

Did Udacity online class pilot see poor results due to bad planning?

by Grace

Poor planning appears to be a factor in the disappointing outcome of one Udacity pilot program.

San Jose State suspends collaboration with online provider

San Jose State suspends its project with Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after many students fail to pass them.

San Jose State University is suspending a highly touted collaboration with online provider Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after finding that more than half of the students failed to pass the classes, officials said Thursday.

Preliminary results from a spring pilot project found student pass rates of 20% to 44% in remedial math, college-level algebra and elementary statistics courses. In a somewhat more promising outcome, 83% of students completed the classes.

The San Jose State experiment with online education was being closely watched by other universities as they begin to step farther into the virtual classroom.

Udacity, a private Silicon Valley education group, and San Jose State announced jointly that they have agreed to pull the courses this fall to examine results in greater detail and fine-tune many aspects of the project.

“There are many complex factors that relate to student performance, and we’re trying to study the factors that help or hinder students in this environment,” said San Jose State Provost Ellen Junn.

Since the pass rates for students in traditional classes was not disclosed, it’s unclear how the online classes fared in comparison.

Udacity students were not typical San Jose students.

… Fewer than half of the Udacity students were enrolled in San Jose State; many were high school students from low-income communities.

Many Udacity students did not even have access to a computer.  Yeah, that might be a problem.

Provost Junn admitted the pilot program had some difficulties.

She acknowledged that educators did a poor job of explaining upfront what students should expect.

“We learned that we could have prepared them better about what it means to take an online course and that this is a university course with real faculty teaching for university credit,” Junn said. “Maybe some students didn’t take it quite seriously.”

It appears San Jose State rushed into this new venture unprepared.  After changes are made, San Jose State will again offer the Udacity online classes next spring.

Related:

May 14, 2013

‘Pell Grants Shouldn’t Pay for Remedial College’

by Grace

Michael Petrilli argues that Pell Grants should not be used to pay for remedial college courses.

 … A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates and warping the country’s K-12 system.

Current Pell Grant spending is wasteful.

About two-thirds of low-income community-college students — and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges — need remedial (aka “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of remedial students earn a four-year degree within six years.

A proposed solution

What if the government decreed that three years hence, students would only be eligible for Pell aid if enrolled in credit-bearing college courses, thus disqualifying remedial education for support?

Possible positive effects:

  • More resources could go to ambitious students, giving them an incentive to work hard to prepare for college-level work.
  • K-12 schools would become more accountable if they knew their graduates would only received college assistance if they were ready for college.
  • Colleges would become more selective, rasing their standards of learning.
  • Pell Grant money could be focused on the most qualified students, improving their chances of graduation.

In sum, disqualifying the use of Pell grants for remedial education would substantially reduce the gap between the number of students entering higher education and the number completing degrees.

Possible negative effects:

Yes, there are obvious downsides. Most significantly, many students wouldn’t be able to afford remedial education and thus would never go to college in the first place. Millions of potential Pell recipients — many of them minorities — might be discouraged from even entering the higher-education pipeline. Such an outcome seems unfair and cuts against the American tradition of open access, as well as second and third chances.

Then again, it’s not so certain that these individuals are better off trying college in the first place. Most don’t make it to graduation….

Perhaps the greatest risk is that colleges would respond to the new rules in a perverse manner: by giving credit for courses that used to be considered “remedial.”  …  would further dilute the value of a college degree.

Petrilli suggests the potential upside is sufficiently compelling to warrant a pilot program that would limit Pell Grants only to students ready to do college-level work.  

Perhaps offer the deal to an entire state. Study what happens. My guess is that it would have a salutary effect on the K-12 system, on higher education and on college-completion rates. Let’s find out.

Related:

March 19, 2012

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.
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