University of Akron trustees unanimously approved a renewed effort to reduce the number of students taking remedial coursework that does not count toward a degree.
The university wants to implement a new admissions formula that filters out first-year students who are not college-ready.
Those students, labeled as preparatory, would still be referred to area community colleges before being admitted to UA.
“For some students, we won’t be their first step. We’ll be their second step,” said Mike Sherman, senior vice president and provost.
The university actually began redirecting students to community colleges last year.
Changes in the new policy alter the formula used to identify students as college-ready.
A combination of high schools GPA and ACT scores would be used to place students into three categories: preparatory, emergent and college-ready.
Emergent students are slightly less prepared than college-ready students, who are fully prepared for the rigor of post-secondary classes.
Currently 19 percent of students are considered preparatory, 21 percent emergent, and 50 percent college-ready.
The new process uses a sliding scale with emphasis on high school GPA. The scale allows the university to accept students who may be ready for college but score poorly on standardized tests, or maybe students who do well on the ACT but performed poorly in high school.
One possible result: a student with a high school GPA of 2.6 would be steered to a community college if his or her ACT score is below 12. Other students with a 2.6 GPA who score between 12 and 31 on the ACT would be labeled emergent, while those scoring above 31 would be considered college-ready. That example represents extremes on each end. But they do exist, education experts say.
Sherman said the scale allows the university to cast a wider and more inclusive net when identifying students who have the best chance of succeeding in their freshman year and, thus, graduating on time — a plus for UA.
That’s been the driving factor for Ohio universities that are increasingly accepting fewer students who require refresher courses. Kent State University, which touts higher admission standards than UA, has increased the average GPA of incoming freshmen to a historic high of 3.27.
By avoiding students who typically do not graduate on time or require remedial courses, Ohio public universities are avoiding the impact of targeted state funding cuts.
Those cuts, along with the 41 percent of Ohio freshmen taking non-required remedial courses, have prompted Ohio legislators to cut funding for remedial classes offered at UA, KSU and many other colleges. The loss of state funding has forced Ohio’s public universities to ratchet up admissions standards and create the most academically and fiscally efficient post-secondary learning tract for students and state-funded universities.
That means that the 857 “preparatory” students that UA accepted last fall is expected to decrease by 25 percent each year through 2017 as the university accepts fewer and fewer students who aren’t ready for a four-year college.
“We shouldn’t have those students start here,” Sherman said.
Remedial coursework at a community college costs a third the price. And area education experts see the benefit in diverting students from a more expensive and less productive college path.
“They were leaving with nothing except debt,” said Derran Wimer, executive director of Summit Education Initiative (SEI).
Wimer heads SEI, an education policy and research organization that tracks student success along the cradle-to-career pipeline. Matt Deevers, senior research associate, spearheads that data driven effort from as early as kindergarten testing.
“It’s encouraging. It shows the flexibility and diversity to human outcomes,” Deevers said of UA’s proposed admission formula which would review “four high school years as opposed to [just] two hours” of ACT testing.
Tuition cut for incoming freshmen this summer
The UA Board of Trustees also approved a tuition reduction for freshmen enrolled in classes this fall who wish to start their college education this summer.
Through a program called ZipStart, which is being submitted to the Ohio Board of Regents for approval, the university would allow those students to take one of six general education courses for $750 and two for $1,000. The university would also waive applicable fees. Tuition for a single three-credit class is typically $1,206 with fees.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.