The Ohio Board of Regents has made clear it intends to eliminate funding for remedial classes in the state’s four-year universities by 2020. It is little surprise, then, the University of Akron has started this summer to implement a policy to redirect to area community colleges students who are inadequately prepared for college work.
With some exceptions, the university is referring applicants with ACT scores of 16 or less (out of a maximum 36 points) to two-year colleges. The policy is necessary and appropriate, and not simply because it would help raise the caliber of students for a university aiming to raise its academic profile. It is necessary because remediation is an expensive and quite inefficient way to provide an education, especially when budgets are tight and the demand has risen for high-level academic and professional courses.
Ohio’s public institutions spent roughly $146 million on remedial classes in 2010, according to the Board of Regents. In short, families and the public pay twice, once through the K-12 system, and again in college, to get students to the point where they can handle introductory college courses. More disheartening still, because remedial classes do not count toward college credits, students spend more time (and money) pursuing a diploma. Further, studies show college freshmen who need remedial coursework are less likely to complete college than their better-prepared peers.
Listen to Ohio’s education policymakers, and they say the goal of the school system is to produce graduates who are college and career ready. The data offer an idea of how much work lies ahead to achieve the college-readiness goal.
More than 100,000 freshmen in the state in 2009 required at least one remedial course. The Alliance for Excellent Education, a national policy group, reports that in 2010, 28 percent of ACT-tested high school graduates in Ohio met the college-readiness standard in all four core subjects — English, math, science and reading. The differences in scores remain wide between the state’s achievement tests and NAEP, the so-called national tests.
None of this is to suggest that Ohio has been lacking in education policies — or “education governors,” either. Over the past several years, the components have been identified that could eliminate much of the need for remedial courses after high school. For instance, the state has beefed up the school curriculum, adopting the Core Curriculum, with more rigorous content and assessment standards. Ohio has new tighter teacher licensure and tenure requirements. It is participating in federal Race to the Top programs that offer substantial funding to improve early childhood as well as K-12 education. What needs to happen urgently is for the parts to gel as a cohesive system, able to help students and institutions of higher learning avoid the expense of remedial limbo.