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February 13, 2004 :: Fewer Students Requiring Remedial Courses, Annual Report Shows

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Oklahoma high schools seem to be doing a better job of preparing students for college and fewer students are having to take remedial courses than in 2001, according to an annual report presented to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education today.

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 2002-2003 Annual Student Remediation Report showed that since 1996, the remediation rate for first-time freshmen from Oklahoma high schools dropped one percentage point, from 37.3 percent to 36.3 percent, and is lower than the 38.4 percent for all first-time freshmen. The new figure is also slightly better than last year’s figure of 36.5 percent. The overall figures are higher than they were in 1999-2000, however.

“Although these new figures show that Oklahoma public schools made some headway last year in reducing the state’s remediation rates, there is still a lot of room for improvement,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “Consistently improving the way we get our students up to levels necessary to succeed in college is vital if our state’s economy is to grow and prosper.”

The student remediation report also revealed that a higher percentage of older freshmen (21 years of age and older) require more remediation than their traditional counterparts. Last year, 44.4 percent of older freshmen enrolled in remedial courses compared to 36.4 percent for first-time freshmen less than 21 years of age.

The recent economic downturn may be the reason for the increase in the number and percentage of older students needing remediation, Risser said, as more Oklahomans are now attending college for the first time since high school and either never prepared themselves for college or just need to brush up on their academic skills.

Despite a light drop in remediation rates in mathematics from last year, the report showed that it is still the subject in which most students need remediation. In 2003, 32.8 percent of first-time freshmen enrolled in at least one remedial math class. Officials expect that figure to decrease further in the future since high school students are now required to take an additional math course to graduate.

Out of the more than 41,000 students enrolled in remedial courses in Oklahoma, 75.4 percent were taught at the community colleges, also the primary source of remediation in the nation. This compares to 19.3 percent of remedial students taught at the four-year regional universities and 5.3 percent taught at the state’s two comprehensive universities, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma universities and Iowa State University are the only public institutions in the Big 12 that charge additional fees for remediation. Students taking remedial courses pay a fee in addition to tuition for each course they take. The fees range from $13 per credit hour at the two-year colleges to $24 per credit hour at OU or OSU. During the 2002-2003 academic year, Oklahoma public colleges and universities generated $2.5 million from fees charged to offset costs of providing remedial courses.

“The financial costs associated with providing remedial courses at our public colleges and universities are minimal compared with our total higher education budget,” State Regents Chairman Ike Glass said. “But more important is the fact that if our institutions did not provide remediation, fewer Oklahomans would get college degrees, and more would be employed in lower-paying jobs.”

State Regents have undertaken many initiatives to help Oklahoma students better prepare for college. They have managed the costs of remedial education; increased the high school core curriculum requirements for college admission from 11 courses to 15; and implemented the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS), which provides eighth-and 10th-grade students with information about how they are progressing academically in core content areas.

The State Regents also provide Oklahoma school districts with annual reports regarding ACT scores, college-going rates, remediation rates and first-year college performance of their graduates. In addition, the State Regents administer the OHLAP (Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program) scholarship program that enables high school students to earn free college tuition by taking rigorous courses in high school. OHLAP students typically have lower remediation rates compared to all other high school graduates.