- About 7,800 California State University students who weren't ready for college math passed credit-bearing classes in the subject last fall after the system eliminated non-credit remedial courses, the Los Angeles Times reported. That's up from just 950 the prior year.
- Cal State overhauled its developmental course process last year by replacing non-credit courses with those that count toward a degree and providing extra support for students who need it. It is part of the system's effort to increase its four-year graduation rate to 40% by 2025, up from 19% in 2015.
- The new system has seen mixed results. At the Northridge campus, four in 10 students failed the credit-bearing classes, a rate similar to the former remedial offerings. At the Sacramento campus, however, 93% of students passed the reformed algebra class, up from 60% in the remedial version the year before.
Remedial classes are intended to support students who are not yet ready for college-level coursework – most often in math and English – but critics charge they can delay graduation and exhaust financial aid resources.
In response to some of those criticisms, remedial education has experienced a "flood of reforms" in recent years, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Those reforms typically include letting students enroll in regular classes supplemented by supports such as tutoring or advising. Several states have moved toward this method, dubbed corequisite education, including Tennessee Colorado, Georgia and Indiana.
The City University of New York, meanwhile, found developmental courses were helpful to students and so reworked its system to offer an intensive semester of remedial coursework for which they only charge a $75 fee. That allows students to reserve financial aid benefits for credit-bearing courses.
Yet remedial education may not be fulfilling its intended goals. One in three community college students taking a remedial class may not have needed to had other placement measures, such as GPA and non-cognitive assessments, been used, according to a study by the Community College Research Center and MDRC.
As more research emerges showing the benefits of alternatives to remedial courses, higher education leaders are urging other colleges to reconsider how they are handling students who aren't ready for college-level coursework in some areas.