More remedial students sticking with college

Colorado schools doing better job with retention, Lt. Gov. Garcia says

DENVER – “Why can’t Johnny read?” is a common question in education.

But now, Colorado officials are starting to worry about something else: Why can’t Johnny’s parents do math?

More than three in 10 students enter college without being ready for the coursework, and the number is rising. But nearly 6 in 10 adult freshmen need remedial classes, with math being the most common subject, according to the state’s annual report on the topic, released Tuesday.

The good news is that colleges are doing a better job in keeping students in remedial classes from dropping out, said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who is also director of the Department of Higher Education.

In the 2010-11 school year, 19 percent more remedial students stayed in college compared with the previous year.

“The real tragedy here is not that students need remediation, but that so many students who test into a remedial course never go beyond it,” Garcia said.

Placement in a remedial class can be deflating for students who thought they qualified for college, he said.

To help such students, Garcia is backing House Bill 1155, which would push colleges to offer remedial classes on campus, instead of requiring students to take classes at a community college.

Garcia said the rate of unprepared freshmen is rising because more students are enrolling in college, including older students and young people who are the first in their families to go to college.

While college used to be reserved for high school students who excelled academically, today the state is focused on increasing access to as many students as possible, he said.

Although Fort Lewis College’s graduation rate lags the state average, the college does a better-than-average job of keeping its remedial students enrolled.

In the freshman class of 2004, 35 percent of students in remedial courses had earned a college degree within six years. The state average was less than 30 percent, according to Tuesday’s report.

Statewide, remedial education cost $47.5 million last school year, with the state and students splitting the cost about in half.

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