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February 17, 2006 :: Colleges Report Improved Student Success in Spite of More Remediation

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More first-time freshmen entering Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are enrolling in remedial courses, according to a report presented today to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Despite the increase, the report also showed that most institutions report lower remediation rates.

Remedial courses are non-credit courses required in Oklahoma public colleges and universities for students who do not demonstrate minimum competencies in one or more of four areas: math, reading, English and science. Students who score below 19 on an ACT subject test in those areas must either enroll in a remedial course or undergo additional testing in that subject area.

The 2004-2005 Annual Student Remediation Report showed that from 1996-97 to 2004-05, the remediation rate for first-time freshmen direct from Oklahoma high schools dropped from 37.3 percent to 36.2 percent. The new figure is lower than the 38.7 percent for all first-time freshmen.

In last year’s remediation report, 35.0 percent of first-time freshmen direct from Oklahoma high schools required remediation, while the remediation rate for all first-time freshmen was 37.4 percent.

The student remediation report revealed that a higher percentage of older freshmen (21 years of age and older) require more remediation than their younger counterparts. Last year, 46.7 percent of older freshmen enrolled in remedial courses compared to 35.8 percent for first-time freshmen younger than 21 years of age.

Higher education officials cite improved data coding for much of the increase for both freshmen direct from high school and older freshmen.

“Reducing the need for remediation among our college freshmen, regardless of age, is extremely important for our state,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “Students not properly prepared in high school will be at a clear disadvantage when they get to college and may not be able to graduate in a timely manner. On the flip side, however, remedial courses do provide another opportunity for students to acquire a college education.”

Not surprisingly, mathematics was the subject in which most first-time freshmen struggled. A total of 32.9 percent of students required math remediation, followed by 17.7 percent in English, 5.5 percent in reading and 2.0 percent in science. The new figures represent slight increases from the previous year, except for reading, which saw a slight decrease.

More than 44,000 students enrolled in remedial courses in Oklahoma in 2004-05, about a thousand more than the previous year. A majority of those students – 79.2 percent – were taught at community colleges, also the primary source of remediation nationally. This compares to 18.6 percent of remedial students taught at the regional universities and 2.2 percent taught at the state’s two research universities, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

States vary in how they treat the costs of providing remedial courses. Students taking remedial courses in Oklahoma pay a fee in addition to tuition for each course they take. During the 2004-05 academic year, Oklahoma public colleges and universities generated $2.4 million from fees charged to offset costs of providing remedial courses.

“The goal is to eliminate the need for most remediation so that all students may be successful in college. The State Regents are committed to reducing the need for remediation as well as assisting all students who want a college education,” State Regents’ Chairman Cheryl P. Hunter said. “Our institutions are also committed to making sure that their graduates are prepared for the work force.”

The State Regents have implemented many initiatives during the past decade designed to reduce remediation rates and improve student success, including enhancing teacher preparation, increasing standards for college preparation, establishing better communication between Oklahoma high schools and facilitating cooperation among various state education entities. These and other state initiatives have resulted in Oklahoma being recognized nationally for teacher and student preparation efforts.

In other action, the State Regents were presented annual reports as part of the Oklahoma High School Indicators Project. The reports contain information about college-going rates and remediation rates, as well as headcount, semester hours and grade point averages of first-time freshmen. Among the highlights:

The high school indicators reports are a response to Senate Bill 183 from the 1989 Legislature that required the State Department of Education to provide multiple types of evaluations and notify individual schools and districts of the evaluations. The bill also required that the general public be advised as to the “effectiveness” of individual schools or districts.