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REFRESHER COURSE: Report Finds that a Third of Community College Freshmen Enrolling from High School Need Remediation

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“These data suggest that many 2004 immediate enrollees in community colleges were students with a high school GPA of C+ or above but who lacked mathematics coursework beyond algebra II, foreign language coursework beyond year 2, or both.”

Almost one third of the students who were seniors in high school in 2004 and who enrolled in community college that fall took at least one remedial course during their first year of college, states a recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The report, Community Colleges: A Special Supplement to the Condition of Education 2008, examines the educational attainment of Class of 2004 high school seniors and compares students who enrolled in two-year postsecondary schools to those who chose four-year schools. It finds that 63 percent of the seniors were “immediate enrollees,” starting postsecondary education directly after high school, with roughly one third of that total enrolled in community colleges.

A significant share of all students—but particularly those attending community colleges—were underprepared for the course work. Whereas 19 percent of immediate enrollees in public and 15 percent of those attending private, not-for-profit four-year colleges took at least one remedial course, 29 percent of those attending community college did so.

The report cites a couple of probable reasons for this occurrence, among them the “open admission” policies of many two-year institutions—meaning that students neither compete for entry into the school nor are required to display a certain level of academic proficiency to enroll. Additionally, some states no longer offer remedial courses at their public four-year institutions, forcing students to take remedial courses at community colleges. The report’s authors warn that readers should interpret these percentages as low-end estimates because they only account for classes taken during the students’ first year and are based on reports from students, who may not recognize a class as being remedial.

The report also notes that students in the Class of 2004 who were more academically successful were also more likely to enroll in four-year schools than in two-year schools. Indicators examined include students’ grade point averages—whether they were above, at, or below 2.5 (C plus), standardized math scores, and whether or not they took advanced courses in math, science, or foreign languages.

“These data suggest that many 2004 immediate enrollees in community colleges were students with a high school GPA of C+ or above but who lacked mathematics coursework beyond algebra II, foreign language coursework beyond year 2, or both,” the report states.

For Community Colleges: A Special Supplement to the Condition of Education 2008’s findings on community college students in general and its comparison of two-year versus four-year schools, download the report at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2008033.

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