Remedial education—courses designed for postsecondary students on basic skills that they did not master in high school—costs the United States an estimated $5.6 billion, according to a new brief by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
“Remediation is paying for the same education twice,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “It is a wasteful use of public and private dollars and an unrealistic solution to closing the preparation gap between high school and college. Doing it right the first time by delivering a high-quality high school education improves the chances of long-term success for students and communities.”
This $5.6 billion figure represents the costs associated with students enrolled in two- or four-year institutions during the 2007–08 school year who had taken one or more remedial courses while in college. Specifically, it includes $3.6 billion in direct remedial education costs and an additional $2 billion in lost lifetime wages because students enrolled in remedial courses are more likely to drop out of college, which in turn, significantly reduces their earning potential.
“Saving Now and Saving Later: How High School Reform Can Reduce the Nation’s Wasted Remediation Dollars” finds that about one out of every three students entering postsecondary education will need to take at least one remedial course. In 2008, reports show that 44 percent of students under the age of twenty-five had been enrolled in one or more remedial courses at public two-year institutions and 27 percent had been enrolled in one or more remedial courses at public four-year institutions. The brief points out that while remediation is a problem for all students, students of color are disproportionally affected.
“Saving Now and Saving Later” finds that students shoulder a significant portion of the financial burden for the nation’s remediation problem. On average, students pay 42 percent of total postsecondary costs at public four-year colleges and 14 percent of costs at two-year colleges. Because remedial courses often do not contribute credits toward a degree, students lose money and time that could have been spent on credit-bearing courses.
“The very concept is a direct admission that many high schools are not adequately preparing these students,” said Wise. “At a time when states are searching for deficit-cutting tools and businesses are requiring a well-educated workforce, the nation must work together to align secondary school standards to postsecondary demands so that every student can graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or a career. The potential cost savings of eliminating the need for remediation are too great to ignore.”
“Saving Now and Saving Later” provides the costs of remediation for all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The brief is available here.