Connecticut to Do Away with College Remedial Courses

Remedial college courses in Connecticut's public colleges are on the way out, thanks to a recent vote by both chambers of the state's General Assembly. The move, which is aimed at improving the quality of the state's higher education system, will replace the courses with supplementary workshops and labs that will be offered outside class hours and in addition to the regular college-level classwork.

Senator Beth Bye of West Hartford explained that the requirement to offer remedial classes to college students who were unprepared for the rigor of college work was hobbling the schools and preventing them from innovating. The bill would allow them to introduce new academic programs or redesign their existing ones without the worry that they'll be leaving behind a substantial portion of their student body.

Another benefit of the new bill is that it no longer requires students to take on college-level debt for what is, in effect a catch-up program that doesn't give any credit towards a college degree, says Representative Roberta Willis of Lakeville. Spending the first year doing high-school level work while paying college-level fees isn't a productive way to spend either money or time.

The proposed legislation requires the colleges to put in place intensive college readiness programs, including lab-like tutorials, by the fall of 2014. In addition, also by 2014, the state's 8th- and 10th-graders will all have to undergo college-readiness assessment. The idea is for colleges to better align their expectations of higher-ed preparedness with the reality of CT's high school graduates' academic attainment.

If signed by the Governor Dannel P. Malloy, the new rules will apply to the state's four-year institutions as well as CT's community-technical colleges.

Still, some believe that, while well-meaning, the new legislation is misguided and instead of helping students, will push them into coursework that is too difficult for them to handle. Thomas Hodgkin, Professor of English, believes that the new rules will place a "revolving door" in community colleges as students will be unable to cope with the difficulty and, lacking meaningful academic support, get discouraged and leave.

Hodgkin, whose school, the Northwestern Connecticut Community Colleges recently launched a successful six-credit English remedial course which will have to be discontinued once the new rules come into effect, says that it is the slower pace and an intimate relationship between instructors and their students that made the course so successful. Without that kind of feedback and attention, students would flounder. Before the law passed, the college was considering launching a similar program in the Math department but now the plans have been shelved.

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