College remediation rates rise

Colorado’s college remediation rates rose in 2010-11, but retention rates increased for students enrolled in remedial classes, according to a report released today by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia.

The report attributed part of the increase to more students, saying, “These rates appear to be related to overall growth in college enrollment.” Higher education enrollment grew 5.6 percent from 2009-10 to 2010-11, some 14,000 students.

While rates were up over the prior year, remediation rates – overall and broken out by type of institution – have remained much the same over the last six years.

Here are some of the key findings:

• The percentage of first-time high school graduates placed into at least one remedial course was 31.8 percent, up from 28.6 percent in 2009-10. The largest number of students needed remediation in math.

• The remediation rate for community colleges was 58.2 percent and 20.5 percent at four-year schools. (Students are counted as needing remediation of they require a basic skills class in one subject – math, reading or writing.)

• Some 57 percent of adult students (those over age 20) required remediation in at least one subject.

• Only 57.7 percent of students who needed remediation continued for a second year in college, compared to 75.2 percent of all recent high school graduates. The retention rate for remedial students has increased from 51.9 percent in 2005-06.

• White, non-Hispanic students have the lowest remediation rates while black students had the highest. Women had a slightly higher remediation rate than did men.

• Remedial education costs the state $22 million a year and costs students $24 million.

Garcia, meeting with reporters at the Capitol, said, “It’s not a surprise we see remediation rates increasing,” given the changing demographics of K-12 students and an emphasis on getting more students into higher education.

Given those factors, “The need for remediation is probably going to remain constant at best if not increase,” the lieutenant governor said.

He was careful not to put the blame on high schools, saying, “This is not intended to say to the K-12 system ‘You guys are failing.’”

Colleges are increasingly focused on retaining students, and Garcia called the increase in retention rates “encouraging.”

Garcia said community colleges are developing new approaches to remediation with a recent $1 million grant from Complete College America (see story).

He also touted House Bill 12-1155 as a way to help attack the remediation problem. Students who need remediation, even those admitted to four-year schools, have to take remedial classes through community colleges.

The bill would allow four-year schools to offer some remedial work to their students, provide a way to pay for those classes and give students more flexible ways of getting help, rather than having to take full classes to meet remedial requirements.

Several other bills that attempt to deal with remediation are pending. One of those, Senate Bill 12-047, would require high schools to give the Accuplacer test to every student. The hope is that would give schools data they need to help struggling students before they graduate and thus reduce remediation once students get to college.

Garcia said he likes that concept. But the administration hasn’t taken a position on the bill. He noted the state’s GEAR UP program provides similar services for low-income students.

The Department of Higher Education has gathered remediation data since 2001. Garcia also is executive director of the department. Reducing remediation rates and increasing retention numbers are policy priorities for the Hickenlooper administration.

Inside the report

Among community colleges, the Community College of Denver has the highest remediation rate at 73.3 percent. Morgan Community College had the lowest at 48.8 percent. Some individual community colleges showed declines in their rates.

For four-year institutions, Adams State College had the highest rates at 56.8 percent, but that’s down from 67 percent three years ago. The University of Colorado Boulder rate was a miniscule .6 percent, followed by the Colorado School of Mines at 1.4 percent.

The document also breaks out remediation percentages for graduates of individual high schools, including private schools, who enroll in Colorado colleges. The lowest rate as 1.3 percent at D’Evelyn High School in Jefferson County. Denver’s West High School had the highest remediation rate at 89 percent. (For privacy reasons, data is not broken out for high schools that send fewer than 25 students to Colorado colleges. Data from those schools is included in statewide totals.)

Education News Colorado analyzed the reported remediation numbers for individual high schools in the state’s 10 largest districts to come up with district figures.

Douglas County showed the lowest percentage of graduates needing remediation, 21.5 percent, up slightly from 2009-10. The Boulder Valley district’s percentage was 21.8 percent, also up from last year.

The Aurora schools had the highest percentage of graduates needing remediation, 59.8. That was up from last year. The Denver Public Schools had 58.9 percent of graduates needing remediation, down very slightly from the prior year.

Here are figures for the state’s other largest districts:

  • Adams 12-Five Star: 39.1 percent, up from 2009-10
  • Cherry Creek: 28.5 percent, down
  • Colorado Springs 11: 34.5 percent, up
  • Jefferson County: 28.6 percent, up
  • Poudre: 22.9 percent, down
  • St. Vrain: 31.2 percent, no change

For this first time, this year’s remediation report includes data from private schools. For the 11 such schools for which numbers were individually reported, the overall remediation rate was 23.8 percent.

Read the remediation report here.