Kansas Looks To Address Need For Remedial, Developmental Education

In Kansas, higher education officials are calling for an increased focus on remedial or developmental education — an area that has hampered college completion rates for years. According to Brian Inbody, president of Neosho County Community College, developmental education is very important in providing a path to higher education and out of poverty.

Inbody told the Kansas Board of Regents that developmental education is crucial for student success. It is at the heart of the community college mission, he said. Regents agreed with the need of developmental education to help increase the number of Kansans who have a post-secondary credential or degree, writes Scott Rothschild of Lawrence Journal-World.

"If you are ready to make a change in your life, we are going to meet where you are in your life. And if you can prove yourself, you can move on," Inbody said.

Developmental education refers to coursework offered at a post-secondary institution that usually involves intermediate algebra, fundamentals of English or reading. Students enroll in the classes to prepare for more rigorous college-level courses.

In the past, state leaders have hesitated to allocate resources to providing remedial education to college students, but a recent report says that basic instruction is crucial to the progress of thousands of Kansans and the state in general.

In the academic year 2010-2011, 38% of first-time, degree-seeking students attending Kansas community colleges enrolled in developmental courses during their first year at college. And 17% of university students enrolled in developmental courses during their first year. The most common remedial course taken is math.

According to Inbody, many students in community colleges are struggling to overcome poverty and haven't had the family supports that other college students have had. A typical community college class may include a mixture of recent high school graduates, older adults who haven't been in a classroom in more than 15 years, and students who scored low on the ACT.

"The idea of setting a goal of five years down the road to get into college is a foreign concept to a lot of families," Inbody said. Regents agreed with the need of developmental education to help increase the number of Kansans who have a post-secondary credential or degree.

"Too many people think developmental education is a dirty word. It's not," said Regents Chairman Fred Logan.

Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins said developmental education is key to helping people succeed. It would be easy to write off some of these students, but he said that wouldn't be right.

"We have set this system up where we do have a place where you can get into post-secondary education," Tompkins said.

Community college officials are planning a more in-depth study of developmental education needs to be completed by June. Regent Kenny Wilk told Inbody that "if there are policy issues that need to be changed, please bring them forward."

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