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

Posted: January 18, 2011

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

Math is the weakest area. Most students take only one remedial course.

Forty 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 38 percent of recent high school 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 it is important that all high school students take rigorous courses, particularly in math. Even now, workers should have more than a high school education to get good jobs. In the future, that will be even more true as technology continues to evolve and global competition grows.”

The report, “Getting Prepared: A 2010 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. Highlights of the report include:

  • 45 percent of the nearly 13,000 recent high school graduates taking developmental courses needed only one course, most often in mathematics. Thirty-nine percent took two or three courses, and 16 percent of the students took four or more such courses.
  • Of all the development credits taken by the class of 2008, 50 percent were in mathematics, 23 percent were in writing courses and the rest were in other subjects, such as reading or study skills. Developmental mathematics ranges from basic arithmetic to the equivalent of high school intermediate algebra.
  • The increase in the percentage of students taking developmental courses does not necessarily mean the college readiness of new high school graduates has worsened. One likely reason for the increase is that more recent high school graduates are attending public colleges and universities.


Enrollment in public higher education institutions within two years of high school graduation has risen from 45 percent of the class of 2000 to 53 percent of the class of 2008. Many recent high school graduates who need developmental courses did not anticipate and prepare for college throughout high school. Students who have been out of high school for a year or so also may have lost skills they once had mastered.

  • Students who take developmental courses are increasingly concentrated in the two-year colleges. Of the 2008 graduates who took developmental courses, 87 percent attended a two-year college, 12 percent went to a state university, and 1 percent attended the University of Minnesota, which is a separate system.

The two-year community and technical colleges are “open access” institutions, which means that anyone with a high school diploma or GED can be admitted. A more selective admissions policy in recent years at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus has continued to shrink the number of University of Minnesota students who take developmental courses.

  • The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities now require most first-time students to take placement tests before they enroll in college-level courses. If placement tests indicate they are not ready for college-level work in a subject, they now must take a developmental course.

"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 said. Currently, more than half of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities give trial placement tests to 10th- and 11th-grade students, so they have time to improve their college preparation.

“Teachers, parents and students should understand that developmental courses do not count toward a certificate, diploma or degree,” said Scott Olson, the system's interim vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

“At the same time, the need for developmental education does not necessarily mean college is a poor investment for them and for the state,” Olson said. “Many of these students go on to succeed in college. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities also provide other programs and services to help students succeed.”

The legislatively mandated report provides data on public high school students in Minnesota who graduated between 2005 and 2008 and enrolled within two years in a public college or university in the state. The class of 2008 is the most recent class for which data is available for the full two years.

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

The report is available at: Click here for the report


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