Number of Students Needing Remediation in College on Decline

Efforts by states to make sure their high school graduates are college-ready may be paying off. According to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students who require remediation prior to tackling college courses has fallen between 1999-2000 and 2007-2008.

Of freshmen entering college for the first time in 1999, more than 26% required some academic assistance such as remedial classes to prepare for undergraduate-level work. In 2007, that number had dropped to only slightly more than 20%.

The report looked at remedial course data from three years: 1999-2000, 2003-2004 and 2007-2008. For the purposes of the report, remedial courses are those offered to students who are unprepared for college-level work when they enroll in a college or university as freshmen.

In light of the fact that remediation rates in the late 1990s were found to be stable, the dip found in the early and latter part of 2000s came as somewhat of a surprise. However, the decline had not been found to be consistent over the period studied. In 2003-2004, fewer than 20% of freshmen required remediation before being allowed to enroll in regular classes.

Readers should consider the following limitations when considering the findings presented in this report. First, in this brief remedial coursetaking is based on self-reported data from students. Self-reported data were used instead of transcript data because transcripts generally do not indicate whether a course was remedial or developmental. Second, the findings presented here may not represent the full extent of the need of remediation for first-year undergraduate students. Prior research documents a gap between those who need remediation, those who enroll in remediation, and those who complete remediation. Again, this brief presents data only for those students who reported that they enrolled in remedial coursework. The data and findings presented here should not be construed as describing the entirety of student need, enrollment, or completion of remedial coursework.

The data showed a rather predictable disparity in the remediation rates by racial and ethnic groups. White students had the lowest remediation rate of any group, with white students reporting the lowest rates, 24.3% in 2000 and 19.9% in 2008. Hispanic students had the highest remediation rates of all ethnic and racial groups in 2000 at 37.8%, narrowly beating out black students of whom 37.7% required remediation over the course of the same year. Yet, according to most recent data, their relative position flipped, with black students enrolling in remedial courses at a rate of 30.2% with Hispanic students following closely at 29%.

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