Numbers fall for students in remedial classes

Percentage drops for 2nd straight year at Mesa State

The percentage of Mesa State College students taking remedial courses declined for the second consecutive year in 2009-10, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. It dipped to 47.1 percent.

Last school year, 638 out of 1,356 first-time Mesa State students who recently graduated from high school took remedial courses in math, reading and/or writing. That’s down from 48.8 percent the year before, when 533 out of 1,092 first-time students took remedial courses.

Mesa State’s figures include the main campus in Grand Junction as well as students in Montrose and at Western Colorado Community College.

Mesa State President Tim Foster said he believes “a combination of things” led to the decline. Students are coming to the college more prepared, Foster said. School District 51 in particular raised the bar of expectations for its graduating students, Foster said, helping decrease the number of students needing remedial courses by offering those courses early at Central and Fruita Monument high schools, where the courses are free for students.

The percentage of recent Central, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction and Palisade high school graduates needing remediation at any Colorado college or university in 2009-10 was 41.7 percent, 31.7 percent, 31.9 percent and 35.3 percent, respectively.

Foster said the college also amped up efforts to recruit more qualified students, and it had more success in recent years of getting those students to apply to the college.

“It’s a snowballing effect with quality programs and quality students,” he said.

Students are not forced to take remedial courses, but Foster said students with low ACT scores in certain areas take a test when they enter college to see where their skill level lies. Students are strongly encouraged by advisors to take remedial courses if the test shows they could use some work in certain areas. Occasionally, students will opt instead to get a tutor and attempt college-level courses.

Courses address a variety of skill levels, so students may have to take more than one course in a single subject area to be ready for college-level courses. Foster said most students take a semester to complete a remedial course, but some can complete one in half that time. Some remedial courses are offered in a classroom setting, while others are computer-based and offered in an “emporium lab,” where students can work on computers but have a person in the room to talk to if they need help.

Math is the most common remedial course, with four-fifths of Mesa State students taking remedial courses in 2009–10 taking at least one math course.

About two-thirds of students taking any remedial course last year at Mesa State passed the course.

Although students pay for the courses but earn no credits, Foster said remediation is not a money-maker for the college. Mesa State students who take remedial courses are about 10 percent less likely to keep paying for classes and make it to the next year at the college or a transfer school. They are about 8 percent less likely than their peers to graduate college within six years, if at all.

Instructional costs were projected to be $719,476 for Mesa State to teach remedial courses this year, according to the Department of Higher Education.

“At best it’s a break-even,” Foster said.


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