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College Preparedness Lacking, Forcing Students Into Developmental Coursework, Prompting Some To Drop Out

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High school graduates may be attending college in record numbers, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily ready for higher education.

According to Complete College America -- a Washington-based nonprofit aimed at increasing college completion -- four in 10 high school graduates are required to take remedial courses when they start college. According to Cincinnati.com, two-thirds of those students attending four-year colleges in Ohio and Kentucky fail to earn their degrees within six years -- a number that is on par with national statistics.

College completion rates are even lower at two-year and community colleges. In Ohio and Kentucky, only 6.4 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, of remedial students earn an associate’s degree in three years. The rest either require more than three years, or withdraw.

Researchers say that remedial numbers have increased from nearly one-third of incoming college freshmen in 2001, to about 40 percent currently. The most common remedial -- otherwise known as “developmental” -- classes are math, English and writing, and many students are unaware that they need theses courses until they start planning their schedules and colleges decide who is required to take placement tests.

About 1.7 million students nationwide take remedial classes -- a cost of $3 billion a year, since developmental courses often cost as much as regular college courses.

Experts also say that remedial coursework makes taxpayers pay twice -- once for students to learn in high school, and again in college.

“It’s not efficient to be using those higher education dollars for remedial coursework,” Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the Ohio Board of Regents, told Cincinnati.com. “It’s not only more difficult and more expensive, it can cause students to not complete.”

The ACT indicates only about a third of high school students are college-ready, yet around two-thirds of them are college-bound every year.

Even high school grads who earned As and Bs in honors courses are in need of remedial coursework. A national survey showed four out of five students in college remediation had high school GPAs above a 3.0.

“There’s a dreadful misalignment between college expectations and what they teach in high school,” Northern Kentucky University math professor Steve Newman told Cincinnati.com.

According to New York City’s high school progress reports last October, just 25 percent of students graduating from the city’s high schools in 2011 were prepared for college coursework. In January, the New York Post reported that nearly eight out of 10 high school graduates who enrolled at CUNY community colleges last fall were deemed unable to do college-level work and ultimately required to take remedial classes.

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