In 2009, 89 percent of new students were placed in remedial math, 35 percent in remedial reading and 51 percent in remedial writing. Pima spends more than $20 million a year on “developmental education” at its six Tucson campuses.
Outcomes are terrible: Only 4.1 percent of low-level remedial math students in 2004 completed an associate degree by 2009. Only 2.2 percent of students in the lowest remedial reading level in 2004 had taken a single college-level reading class by 2006; only 6.1 percent had taken any college-level class.
In summary, students testing into the lowest levels of developmental education have virtually no chance of ever moving beyond remedial work and achieving their educational goals. For those students and their families, developmental education is expensive and demoralizing.
Pima is looking at other community colleges’ promising approaches to improving remedial education, but the college also is redefining its open-door admissions policy.
Arizona law mandates that admission be granted to any person who “demonstrates evidence of potential success in the community college.” But, as our outcomes data show, some people who come here simply have not received the education needed to succeed in college. To admit those men and women – some of whom have the equivalent of no better than a middle-school education — and accept their tuition payment, knowing that they have virtually no chance of becoming college-ready, is callous at best.
The college thus intends to amend its open admissions policy for degree- and certificate-seeking students 18 and older to require a high school diploma or its equivalent, and to require appropriate scores on assessment tests. Only students who score at the very bottom will not be admitted.
Pima will refer students who don’t meet admissions standards to adult education.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed a 56 percent reduction in state funding for community colleges on top of a 30 percent cut in state aid over the past two years. “The state is sending us an explicit message,” Flores writes. “You must drastically reduce programs and services.”
The college also receives local funding, but property tax revenue is down because real estate prices have plummeted.
Pima is faced with funding remedial classes with a poor track record or putting the money into desperately needed job training programs, which have proven far more successful.
Flores hopes the new new admissions policy will “spur an honest examination of education in Pima County.” Why are so many high school graduates unprepared to succeed at community college?