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COLLEGE COSTS CONTINUE TO RISE: Need for Remedial Courses Mean Many College Students Must Pay Top Dollar for High School-Level Material

"Not only do they have to pay for courses they could have taken for free in high school, many students also lose semesters on their degree path."

In a blog posting on the Lumina Foundation for Education’s new website on college access, Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise said that escalating college costs have many college freshmen wishing that their high school years had better prepared them for the rigors of postsecondary education. ” ‘Relearning’ material from high school costs college students both time and money,” he wrote. “Not only do they have to pay for courses they could have taken for free in high school, many students also lose semesters on their degree path.”

Based on a new report from the College Board, the rise in college tuitions has slowed, but going to college is not getting any cheaper. According to Trends in College Pricing, tuition and fees have increased by 7.1 percent at four-year public institutions since last year, compared to a 5.9 percent increase at four-year private institutions and 5.4 percent at two-year public institutions. Although the pace of tuition increase has slowed, student aid continues to struggle to keep up. In its companion report, Trends in Student Aid, the College Board reports that average aid per student increased by only 3 percent between 2003-04 and 2004-05, after adjusting for inflation.

While the percentage increases in tuition and fees at public institutions were smaller in 2005-06 than they were in the last two years, they have more than doubled over the last twenty years, from $2,373 in 1985-86 to $5,491 in 2005-06. Similar increases were seen at two-year public institutions and four-year private institutions.

“Socioeconomic status and college success cannot be separated from the serious problem of unequal academic opportunity within our schools,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “In addition to increasing the affordability of higher education, we need to make sure that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to prepare for college. As well, all families should be made aware of the financial aid process and the long-term benefits, both financial and personal, of investing in a college education.”

Many students around the country, especially from minority or low-income families, are the first in their family to consider going to college. Unlike their more well-off peers, their families cannot afford Kaplan or Princeton Review classes to help them prepare for the SAT. Also, with an average student-to-counselor ratio close to 500 to 1 nationwide (and 1,000 to 1 in California), many students do not receive the guidance they need to wade through scholarship forms and college applications. In fact, after going through the college selection process with her oldest daughter and realizing how confusing it is for families, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings recently formed the Commission on the Future of Higher Education. The commission will focus on ensuring America’s system of higher education remains the finest in the world and continues to meet the needs of America’s diverse population by expanding opportunity, innovation, and economic growth.

Once students enroll in college, many are faced with a quick dose of reality when they see a list of remedial courses on their schedule. “For far too many college freshmen around the country, the jubilation of a high school diploma turns to regret when they are confronted with a freshman schedule that includes material they should have learned in high school,” Wise wrote in his Lumina blog posting. “According to the National Center for Education statistics, approximately 28 percent of entering college freshmen had to take remedial courses in reading, writing, or math in fall 2000; at two-year public colleges, nearly half (42 percent) of incoming freshmen had to take at least one remedial course.”

To prevent this, Wise suggests that all high school freshmen “should have access to a rigorous high school curriculum and a clear plan that assesses their needs and identifies courses that they need to graduate high school prepared for postsecondary education.” The plan would include annual follow-up meetings to make sure students remain on track and to provide an opportunity for them to catch up through extra help, academic enrichment, and other supports.

Wise’s blog entry
The College Board Reports, Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid:,3183,48884,00.html.


Lumina Foundation to Hold Summit on College Costs


On November 2, the Lumina Foundation for Education, in collaboration with the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, will host “College Costs: Making Opportunity Affordable,” a national summit on developing and implementing higher education policies and practices that can lower the cost of higher education.

Speakers representing federal and state policymakers as well as the business community and higher education officials will be featured.Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for the New York Times and author of the highly acclaimed The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, will be the luncheon speaker.

The summit is presented in collaboration with more than fifty organizations representing higher and K-12 education, business and philanthropy, government, and students and families.

More information on the conference, as well as a complete list of speakers, is available at


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