Colorado makes progress on remediation

Aims Professor Jeanine Lewis runs through a quick review of complex numbers during class Friday at Aims Community College.

Joshua Polson at The Greeley Tribune
Professor Jeanine Lewis reviews complex numbers during class at Aims Community College.

Colorado’s community colleges and state universities are improving remedial success rates, according to an annual progress report. Statewide 62 percent of remedial students completed their course, up from 59 percent the previous year.

At community colleges, retention rates were higher for first-time remedial students than for classmates who started in college-level courses. Fifty-eight percent of remedial students — but only 55 percent of non-remedial students — returned for a second year.

Fewer high school graduates require remediation: At community colleges, the rate fell slightly to 64 percent.

Offering developmental classes in high schools and expanding dual enrollment has helped, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Lt. Governor Joseph Garcia, the former president of Colorado State University at Pueblo and of Pikes Peak Community College, has taken the lead. It’s not easy, he said.

For example, the state’s community colleges have worked to boil down three semesters of remedial coursework into just one. It’s a labor-intensive job. But the end result will mean students can complete remedial work and “gateway” courses in math and English in just one year.

. . . “That saves the student time and money. And that saves the state money,” Garcia said

State standards are better aligned with college placement requirements, said Garcia. In addition, Colorado uses GEAR UP, a federally funded program that “targets low-income students in middle and high schools, offering intensive advising, dual enrollment and college preparation courses.”

Colorado also has changed the way state aid to students is distributed, notes Inside Higher Ed. “Students now receive more aid when they hit milestones on their way to a credential. Awards are also decreased if students do not graduate on time.”

University takes back remedial role

For years, Metropolitan State University of Denver admitted unprepared students, then sent them to community college for remedial classes. Now, the university is doing some of its own remediation — while students take college-level courses, reports Chalkbeat.

Wanda Holopainen scored low on the math, reading and writing portions of the ACT. Instead of as much as three semesters of community college, she takes Metro State classes with “supplemental academic instruction” (SAI).

Alongside their normal classes, students receive extra support ranging from tutoring and peer study sessions to extra class time where students can receive targeted one-on-one help.

The goal? Reduce the number of students who may never never make it back from a remedial course into a college-level course or receive a degree.

Last year, 40 percent of first-year students at Colorado universities required remediation, reports Chalkbeat. By state law, they’re required to catch up at a community college. 

At Metro State, which has a high remediation rate and a low graduation rate, English and math professors asked the state for permission to take back remediation.

“They’d get admitted and then we told them, ‘you can’t really take our classes,’” said Jessica Parker, a professor in Metro State’s English department. “These are our students and we really wanted to keep them here.”

The English department uses an additional test and an essay to place some low-scoring students out of remediation. 

Those students who still exhibit a need for extra support enroll in one of two programs: an extended version of the introductory writing class spread over two semesters or the regular course with an additional writing lab. In either case, Parker keeps a close eye on their performance, so she or their instructor can intervene if their performance drops.

So far, students are earning fewer low grades and incompletes. The pass rate for SAI students is higher in both English and math than for their classmates. 

“The community colleges resisted [SAI] at first because [remediation] is a huge revenue source,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. But community colleges are adapting. “Even there, they’re going to try and do [remediation] in less time,” said Garcia. “Instead of three semesters of remedial math, they’re going to try and do it in one or two semesters.”

CCs add 4-year degrees, but face pushback

Twenty-three Florida community colleges now offer four-year degrees in high-demand vocational fields, but a bill in the Legislature would prevent colleges from adding bachelor’s degrees without legislative approval. Currently, the state education board authorizes new four-year degrees at two-year colleges.

With tuition two-thirds cheaper at a community college compared to a state university, the lawmakers behind the bill warn that it’s unfair competition. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), said many community colleges are offering more than just specialized bachelor’s degrees, such as nursing and public safety, and are competing with state universities to offer more general degrees, like history, at less cost.

Gov. Rick Scott thinks competition will help students. He’s challenged community colleges to offer four-year degrees with a price tag of $10,000. Daytona State College will be the first with a $10,000 bachelor’s in education.

Students are enthusiastic about the four-year option, writes Jon Marcus for the Hechinger Report.  At Florida community colleges — now called state colleges — more than 30,000 students are pursuing bachelor’s degrees.

It’s cheaper and more convenient than attending a four-year university, especially for working parents and part-time students, who make up a large proportion of community college attendees.

The cost of a baccalaureate course at St. Petersburg College is $118.70 per credit hour, compared to $211.19 at the nearby University of South Florida. . . .

Universities are resisting the trend in many states. Community colleges typically are limited to degrees in vocational fields.

Colorado legislators approved letting community colleges offer four-year degrees only after satisfying Colorado State University and the University of Colorado — whose lobbying was blamed for killing a previous version of a proposal — that they would be limited to career and technical fields such as culinary arts and dental hygiene.

In Michigan, similar legislation was passed over the concerted, years-long opposition of that state’s public universities, which said letting community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees was mission creep, blurs the distinction between different branches of higher education and raises quality concerns. In the end, the community colleges were limited to baccalaureate programs in maritime studies, culinary arts, energy production and concrete technology.

California legislators have rejected four-year degrees at community college three times since 2009, but a new proposal has a good chance of success.

Colorado OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

Colorado community colleges will offer bachelor of applied science degrees in career and technical fields.Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation that makes Colorado the 22nd state to expand community colleges’ role.

Applied science includes fields such as dental hygiene, culinary arts, respiratory therapy and water quality management.

Community colleges will not be allowed to offer bachelor’s degrees that compete with state universities in their area.

CC choice blamed for Latino graduation gap

Forty-six percent of Latinos who graduated from high-scoring public high schools enrolled in a community college, according to a USC study. That compares to 23 percent of their black classmates, 19 percent of Asians and 27 percent of white students. White and Asian students are much more likely to enroll at a four-year university.

Graduation rates are much lower for students who start at community colleges.

Table 1. College-Attendance Rates of California High School Graduates by Public Higher Education System and Race/Ethnicity, 2010


Community College Attendance Rate

CSU Attendance Rate

UC Attendance Rate













African   American




South Pasadena is known for excellent public schools. Of South Pasadena High’s 2010 Latino graduates, 71 percent went straight to community college, reports KPCC.  Only about a third of the school’s white and Asian graduates that year attended community college.

“Perhaps certain kinds of college pathways are promoted for different types of students,” said George Washington University education researcher Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, who authored the study. “We know that tracking is real. We know that differential expectations for academic performance based on things like race and class are real.”

Lower-income students are more likely to choose to a low-cost community college, especially if their parents don’t understand financial aid options.

From Colorado: For low-income students, getting into college is only half the battle. Graduating is a challenge.

More 2-year colleges add 4-year degrees

More community colleges are offering bachelor’s degrees in career fields, reports Community College Daily.

South Seattle Community College (SSCC) added a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, which lets graduates seek a supervisory job in the hotel or restaurant industry.

North Dakota’s universities don’t offer a bachelor’s degree in energy management, so Bismarck State College (BSC) started a program to meet industry demand.

Courses are entirely online and are in eight-week blocks rather than the traditional 16 weeks. Only about 10 percent of the 250 students in the program are in North Dakota; the rest are all over the country. Most are adults already working in the field, although there are some traditional students who’ve just completed an associate degree.

California community colleges hope to offer four-year degrees in vocational majors.

The chief executive officers of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA) this week voted unanimously to endorse the concept. SDICCCA comprises the nine community colleges in the six college districts of San Diego and Imperial counties: Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, Imperial Community College District, MiraCosta Community College District, Palomar Community College District, San Diego Community College District and Southwestern Community College District.

“Our local community colleges excel at preparing students to enter the workforce in career technical fields such as nursing and allied health, ”Melinda Nish, SDICCCA president and superintendent/president of Southwestern College, said in a statement. “It’s time for California to join this national movement and address our local workforce and student needs.”

Colorado community colleges are trying again to add four-year degrees, despite a defeat in the legislature last year, reports the Denver Post. Possible majors included dental hygiene and mortuary science.

Remediation starts in high school

Tennessee community colleges are running math labs in local high schools to prepare students for college math, reports Inside Higher Ed. Encouraged by early results, Gov. Bill Haslam came up with money to expand the experiment.

Math labs are designed for high school seniors who appear likely to place into remedial courses in college.

Pass rates have been high. For example, 83 percent of a group of 200 students in the remedial, dual-enrollment group at Chattanooga State Community College completed all of the college’s required math “competencies” during their senior year of high school.

Even better, 25 percent of those students completed a credit-bearing, college-level math course while still in high school (remedial math is typically noncredit). These were also students who scored a 19 or below on the ACT Mathematics Test as high school juniors, meaning they had deficiencies in the subject.

“They were completely done with math before they even started” college, said Kimberly G. McCormick, interim associate vice president for academic affairs at Chattanooga State.

Three years ago, Chattanooga State helped set up a remedial math lab at a nearby high school. Teacher Deborah Weiss used Pearson’s MyMathLab courseware, which lets students work at their own speed.

The class was “wildly successful,” McCormick said. The state funded a larger pilot at high schools near Northeast State, Cleveland State and Jackson State Community Colleges as well as Chattanooga State.

This year, all 13 of the state’s community colleges are running math labs at 1134high schools throughout Tennessee.

Colorado Gear Up‘s Early Remediation Project starts even earlier — in eighth grade. This year, some 1,300 students in grades 8, 9 and 10 are enrolled in classes mirroring the remedial math and English sequences taught on Colorado campuses. Once students pass the courses, as verified by Adams State University, they can enroll in college-level courses. Some start earning college credits in 10th grade.

Critics hit remedial ed reforms

States are trying to prevent, accelerate or limit remedial education, reports Stateline. But some say remedial reforms will doom the college hopes of poorly prepared students.

Indiana high schools must provide extra help to students at risk of placing into remedial classes in college.

Florida will let many public college students skip developmental classes and enroll in college-level courses.

Colorado now lets state universities place borderline students in college-level classes, with extra support, instead of sending them  to community colleges for remedial classes.

Starting in fall 2014, Connecticut’s public colleges will be required to build remedial education into credit-bearing courses. Students will be allowed only one semester of remediation.

Many of the new remediation models work very well for students who need minimal extra help, said Patti Levine-Brown, president of the National Association for Developmental Education. But for students who need more time to get their skills up to college level, she said, “placing them in courses for which they are not prepared is akin to setting them up for failure.”

“We learned in the 1960s that allowing students to take and fail college level courses and retake those classes did not increase completion rates,” Levine-Brown said. “In fact, it resulted in high withdrawal rates and diminished finances for students.”

Unprepared students will pay a price for skipping remediation, predicts Kenneth Ross, vice president for academic and student services at Polk State College in Florida.  “I think they’re going to struggle, and unless we have some other kind of massive tutoring support which they’ve not funded us for,  they’re going  . . . to struggle and then flunk out.”

College is free for ‘5th-year’ high schoolers

Going a step behind dual enrollment, high schools and community colleges are combining a “fifth year” of high school with the first year of college, reports Community College Times.

In Oregon, nearly 200 high school students will spend a fifth year earning an advanced high school diploma while attending and earning credits at Klamath Community College (KCC). Since these students are still considered to be enrolled in high school, their tuition, fees and textbooks for their first year at KCC are covered by the state’s funding to K-12 school districts.

The students will attend KCC as a cohort and take a college success course together. If they complete the year, they’ll earn an advanced high school diploma and as many as 39 college credits — for free. They’ll be able to continue at KCC,  transfer to another college or enter the workforce.

Colorado’s Ascent program lets high school students delay graduation for a year while they attend a community college; the cost is covered by the state’s K-12 funding.

Community College of Aurora (CCA) has close to 100 Ascent students and 3,000 dual enrollment students, said Elena Sandoval-Lucero, dean of student success. To qualify for Ascent, students must complete at least 12 dual-enrollment credits before 12th grade and be ready to start in college-level courses. Some will be able to earn an associate degree in their “fifth year,” said Sandoval-Lucero.

High school educators hope fifth-year programs will encourage low-income students to start college at no cost and keep on going.

Study: TRIO doesn’t boost college success

Differences in reading and math proficiency between poor and non-poor students.

Federal programs to help disadvantaged students earn college degrees “show no major effects on college enrollment or completion,” concludes “Time for Change: A New Federal Strategy to Prepare Disadvantaged Students for College, a Brookings report. The U.S. Department of Education’s TRIO programs (Upward Bound, Talent Search, Upward Bound Math-Science, Student Support Services and others) cost $1 billion per year.

The TRIO programs are designed to augment disadvantaged students’ academic preparation, give them direct experience with college work, or help them apply to colleges or seek financial aid. . . . Half a century and billions of dollars after these federal college-preparation programs began, we are left with mostly failed programs interspersed with modest successes. Preparing disadvantaged students for college is still a major challenge, with no well-tested solutions in sight.

Summer programs, mentoring, tutoring and parent involvement activities may boost college enrollment, the policy brief found. “These may be the threads from which we can begin to weave together a new kind of intervention program.”

Forced to end affirmative action preferences based on race and ethnicity, California’s state universities “have embedded themselves deeply in disadvantaged communities, working with schools, students and parents to identify promising teenagers and get more of them into college,” reports the New York Times. Outreach efforts start in middle school.

In Colorado, College Summit helps first-generation college students prepare for the challenges they’ll face on campus, reports Colorado Public Radio. That includes the psychological barriers.

Reporter: Self-doubt is just one obstacle – there are many others low-income students are vulnerable to: feeling alienated – from peers and family, not having the safety net their more affluent peers have, culture shock — even the fear of success. Ryan Ross, who oversees student retention at the Community College of Denver, says programs targeting first generation minority students, are crucial.

Ryan Ross: Without these programs, the dismal numbers that we see would be even worse.

Reporter: But he and others estimate that only about 10 to 15 percent of students who need these bridge-to-college support services are getting them. There’s just not enough money. It costs College Summit about $200 per student each session. And it pays off. Drop out rates are high among first generation students. But 77% of College Summit graduates carry on for a second year.

In “neighborhoods where kids don’t believe college is for them,” it makes a big difference to see somebody from the neighborhood who’s now a college graduate, says Ross.  “The light turns on that, hey, I can do this college thing too.”

Only 34 percent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds enroll in college, notes TIME. Eleven percent graduate. High achievers often enroll in less-selective colleges that have lower graduation rates and provide less support to students.