07/13/2011 01:04 pm ET Updated Sep 12, 2011

Alabama Remedial Education: One-Third of Students Unprepared for College

Over a third of Alabama high school graduates have been found unfit for college.

According to the latest numbers collected by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE), 34.4 percent of students enrolled in a two- or four-year college program in 2010 required at least one remedial course in math or reading, the Washington Examiner reports.

Hardly an isolated incident, the state statistic matches the national one determined by the Department of Education. USA Today reported last May that, "a third of first-year students in 2007-08 had taken at least one remedial course, according to the Department of Education. At public two-year colleges, that number rises to about 42 percent."

According to the 2008 study "Diploma to Nowhere" by the nonprofit Strong American Schools, remedial education in public universities costs the federal government between $2.31 and $2.89 billion annually. In reality, the cost is even higher, as students are essentially taking classes over again. In Alabama alone, remedial education costs the state economy $51 million directly, and an additional $29 million in lost income.

Students themselves may not be aware how far behind they are. According to the same Strong American Schools study, nearly 80 percent of the students surveyed believed they were ready for college when they left high school, and four out of five in remedial education had a high school GPA of 3.0.

Just as the shocking cheating scandal unfolding in Atlanta reminds Americans of the underside of American education, some believe that high school has gotten easier to allow individual schools to survive. Under No Child Left Behind, failing students can result in the government closing schools.

Jerome Cook, principal of Bessemer City High School told the Birmingham News: "I don't think it's fair that some of these kids are leaving with As and Bs and then go into college and have to take remedial courses. I think they've dumbed down the curriculum trying to make sure students have good GPAs and test scores, and it's hurting these kids in the long run."

Despite this, Alabama had the highest gains in the nation at the 4th grade reading level according to the 2008 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

ACHE executive director George Fitch argues that this progress is the key to the solution.

"You do not create an engineer or a researcher in their senior year of high school or their freshman year of college. You start them in second, third or fourth grade," Fitch told the Birmingham News.