Report shows high school students should better prepare for college, say MnSCU officials

Posted: August 24, 2005

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

A new report showing that more graduates of Minnesota's public high schools are not prepared for college-level work should send a strong signal to high school students that they need to take more rigorous courses, especially in math, officials of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities said today.

"I am confident that the K-12 public education system in Minnesota will join me in sending a clear message that all high school students should prepare for a post-secondary education," Chancellor James H. McCormick. "Minnesota's employers count on us. Global competition demands it."

The report, "Getting Prepared: A Report on Recent High School Graduates Who Took Developmental/Remedial Courses," was released today by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota.

The report shows more graduates of Minnesota's public high schools are attending public colleges and universities within two years after graduation and more of these students are taking developmental or remedial courses.

Nearly half - 49 percent - of the high school students who graduated in 2002 enrolled in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities or the University of Minnesota within two years after graduation, the report shows. That's up from 46 percent of the high school students in 2000 who graduated and enrolled in one of the two systems.

The percent of these graduates taking one or more developmental courses increased from 34 percent of the 2000 graduates to 36 percent of the 2002 graduates.

Of the 2002 Minnesota public high school graduates who enrolled in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities within two years, 42 percent took at least one developmental course. That's up from 39 percent of the 2000 graduates who took such courses. The percent of graduates who enrolled at the University of Minnesota and took developmental courses decreased from 15 percent of the 2000 graduates to 8 percent of 2002 graduates. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is separate from the University of Minnesota.

The report's findings are consistent with the recent release of ACT Assessment standings that showed only 29 percent of Minnesota's public and private high school graduates who took the ACT test were likely to be prepared for college-level work in all four subject areas, English, mathematics, social sciences and biology.

The increase in the percentage of students enrolling in developmental courses at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities does not necessarily mean the college readiness of new high school graduates has worsened. Part of the increase could be due to an influx of high school graduates who had not prepared fully for post-secondary education but decided to go to college.

"We are gratified that more students recognize they need a college education for a fulfilling career," Chancellor McCormick said. "Providing access to post-secondary education is fundamental to our mission.

"But teachers, parents and students should understand that even though community and technical colleges admit all high school graduates, students who are not prepared for college-level work will have to take developmental courses and those courses do not count toward a certificate, diploma or degree," McCormick said.

Though all of Minnesota public higher education institutions offer some developmental courses, enrollment in these courses is higher in the two-year colleges. Minnesota's two-year community and technical colleges have open admissions policies, which means that anyone with a high school diploma or GED may be admitted. Forty-six percent of their students from the 2002 class took developmental courses. Twenty-nine percent of the 2002 class admitted to the state universities enrolled in developmental courses.

Linda Baer, the system's senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, added, "In the last few years, our state colleges and universities have begun doing more thorough assessments of their entering students' readiness for college-level courses. As a result, more students in our system are being required to take developmental education courses because we know these courses will help them succeed."

Of all the developmental courses taken by the class of 2002 at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, 56 percent were in mathematics, 24 percent were in writing and 20 percent were in such areas as reading, English as a Second Language and study skills. Often, students took only one developmental course.

Some students take developmental courses because they have not taken the necessary courses in high school. Other students, who have taken recommended high school courses, may still need developmental courses, based on placement exam results. Some of these students have been out of high school for a year or so and lost skills they once had mastered. In addition to developmental/remedial courses, most institutions offer such support services as learning centers, supplemental instruction, tutoring and advising.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities provide various programs and services in addition to developmental courses to help students succeed, Baer added. Moreover, an earlier study has shown that students who take developmental courses tend to do as well in college-level courses as students who did not need that extra boost. In fact, of all the students in the class of 2002 who took developmental courses, 84 percent earned a grade point average of 2.0 or better, and 28 percent earned a 3.0 or better two years following high school graduation.

"Their success proves that the need for developmental education does not necessarily mean college is a poor investment for them and for the state," Baer said. "However, because developmental credits do not count toward a degree, all students are better off getting the foundation they need in high school to start college-level courses right away."

View the 2005 Getting Prepared report (PDF)