CUNY's remedial education program models successful engagement

Dive Brief:

  • The City University of New York is seeing positive results from a program called CUNY Start for students who want to attend college but did not score high enough to take the courses they would need to earn an associate’s degree, according to the New York Times. The program boasts higher success rates than most remedial programs.
  • Remedial math and English courses remain a challenge for students hoping to earn a degree or certificate in college. According to the Times, only a third of students referred to remedial math and less than half of those referred to remedial reading pass the courses nationwide, and only 15% of students taking remedial classes graduate from two-year programs on time.
  • CUNY Start utilizes counseling to offer assistance to students in the program, many of whom are working full-time and are facing significant stressors. Many of the students enrolled in CUNY Start will also enroll in CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs initiative.

Dive Insight:

A 2016 study found that one in four students had to enroll in remedial courses in their first year of college, with a cost total of about $1.5 billion to families; the courses do not count towards a degree and students often have to have to lengthen their college stay.  The Center for American Progress noted that low-income students and students of color were over-represented in such classes. 

Making remedial education as fluid and successful as possible will help alleviate eventual financial burdens on students, parents and schools alike, and will promote higher graduation rates. And coupling the individual attention via mentoring aspect to help promote student success among a high-risk population is key.

Many issues in remedial education could be addressed with K-12 education that offered strong outcomes for all students, and an upfront investment in early childhood education could alleviate the financial burden of remedial education later on. Experts believe that early childhood education offers a strong return on investment once students enter the workforce, but it can also help students avoid remedial education altogether.

Katharine Stevens, a Resident Scholar on Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said in an April discussion that a larger focus on early childhood education would eliminate much of the need for remediation because they would “get it right from the beginning,” significantly cutting costs for universities later on. However, such long-term planning is difficult for legislators and lawmakers to support, as it offers few immediate benefits to tout and a greater initial expense. School administrators can make the case that a long-term investment to reduce costs could alleviate bigger hardships later, particularly if tuition revenue for higher ed institutions continues to fall.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed