By Joseph Harkins
WASHINGTON, D.C. _ Some recent high school graduates still basking in their shining moment are about to be confronted with a grim reality. That’s what a non-profit group said about 1.7 million U.S. college-bound students who will be required to take remedial courses in math and English.
The courses are designed to be a pick-me-up for students to prepare for their prerequisite studies, but Complete College America said, for many, the added work is just a waste of time and money.
The Washington-based-organization, which works to increase the number of students nationwide with college degrees, said the classes are, in large part, failing the higher education system at a time when student loan debt has become a national campaign issue.
Research shows that more than 50 percent of students entering two-year colleges and nearly 20 percent of those headed to four-year universities put in a least one remedial course. Alarmingly, just 1 in 10 remedial students graduate from community colleges within three years and a little more than a third complete a bachelor’s degree in six years.
“Everyone would have to say that there needs to be attention given to remedial courses and how effective they are,” said Greg von Lehmen, provost and chief academic officer at the University of Maryland-University College. “But in the short- and middle-term, there needs to be remedial courses because too many graduates coming out of high school aren’t ready for post-secondary work.”
The College Board, a not-for-profit membership organization that prepares students for a transition to college through the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program®, said last fall that the average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose an additional $631, or about 8 percent, compared with a year ago. The annual cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000 — an all-time high.
Even though college credit isn’t awarded for remedial courses, students must still pay for hours taken; this, at a time when total outstanding student debt has risen to $1 trillion. Meanwhile, legislators and policymakers are up in arms about the mountain of debt, but they have yet to do anything about it.
“Access to college -- and people making money off of it -- are at an all-time high,” said Russ Coughenour, director of career services at the University of Tennessee. “If I want to give college a try, I can -- either through proprietary schools, online schools and community colleges. Just look at the number of schools that are currently available and ready and willing to admit marginal candidates while offering convenient financial loan programs.”
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has warned that that by 2016, 62 percent of all jobs will require some college education, and nearly half will require at least a bachelor’s degree.
Von Lehmen said that lofty goal can be achieved in a better economy, but admits “that higher education isn’t for everyone; yet, the preponderance of evidence is that some college is better than not any at all.”
He said that a focus needs to be placed on adult education; primarily, current students, former dropouts and curriculum that is both accessible, affordable and in line with workforce needs.
“It’s become more and more expected that people will go to college,” said von Lehmen. “The key is where the jobs are, and to prepare people for whatever education is needed for those jobs.”