Report on remedial education shows gaps in college preparation, MnSCU officials say

Posted: April 2, 2008

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

Thirty-eight percent of Minnesota's recent public high school graduates who enrolled in public higher education in the state have taken at least one developmental or remedial course within two years after graduation, according to a new report issued today. That is up slightly from a report three years ago, when 36 percent of recent graduates took at least one developmental course.

"This report points out the need for all students to prepare for college," said Chancellor James H. McCormick. "Parents, teachers, mentors and others should know that all high school students need to take rigorous courses, particularly in math, because the good jobs now and in the future require a higher level of achievement than in the past."

The report, "Getting Prepared: A 2008 Report on Recent High School Graduates Who Took Developmental/Remedial Courses," was released by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota. The legislatively mandated report provides data on public high school students in Minnesota who graduated between 2003 and 2006 and enrolled within two years in a public college or university in the state. The class of 2005 is the most recent class for which data is available for the full two years.

Each school superintendent in the state receives data on individual graduates from their districts who took developmental courses so teachers and administrators can look for opportunities to improve their educational programs.

"Our colleges and universities are working hard to make sure high school students and teachers clearly understand the level of readiness necessary for success in college," McCormick added. Currently, 16 of the 32 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities give trial placement tests to 10th- and 11th-grade students, giving them time to improve their college preparation.

The increase in the percentage of students taking developmental courses does not necessarily mean the college readiness of new high school graduates has worsened, McCormick noted. Under direction from the Board of Trustees, the state colleges and universities system has stepped up the amount of placement testing. New registration procedures may prevent students from enrolling in college-level classes if placement tests indicate they should first take a developmental course.

Some students take developmental courses because they have not taken the necessary courses in high school. Others who have taken recommended high school courses still may 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 courses, most institutions offer such support services as learning centers, supplemental instruction, tutoring and advising.

Linda Baer, the system's senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said, "Teachers, parents and students should understand that developmental courses do not count toward a certificate, diploma or degree."

Of all the public high school graduates from the class of 2005 who have taken developmental courses in a public college or university, most needed only one course. The report shows 20 percent took one course, 9 percent took two courses, and the rest took three or more courses. Further, 57 percent of the credits taken by these students were in mathematics courses, 21 percent were in writing and the rest were in other subjects, mostly reading, English as a Second Language and study skills.

Ninety-seven percent of the 10,834 graduates who took developmental courses attended one of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

As part of their mission, Minnesota's two-year community and technical colleges are "open access" institutions. Because anyone with a high school diploma or GED may be admitted regardless of high school preparation and achievement, these colleges tend to enroll the greatest numbers of students who need developmental education. The report showed 48 percent of the 2005 graduates who enrolled in a public two-year college took one or more development courses, up from 46 percent of the 2002 graduates.

At the seven state universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the percentage of recent graduates taking developmental courses has remained constant - around 29 percent - since the class of 2002 entered public higher education.

The University of Minnesota is a separate system. At the University of Minnesota, enrollment in developmental courses dropped from 8 percent for the class of 2002 to 7 percent for the class of 2005, most likely because of a more selective admissions policy at the Twin Cities campus.

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. Of all the students in the class of 2005 who took developmental courses in either public higher education system, 30 percent earned an overall 3.0 grade point average or better in the two years following graduation from high school.

"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.

View a copy of the Getting Prepared report


Minnesota's 31 state community and technical colleges, and universities serve more than 430,000 students across the state.