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State will use $1 million on remedial ed

Colorado is one of 10 states that will receive a $1 million grant to boost college graduation rates, and officials say they’ll target students stuck in remedial classes.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia / file photo
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia / file photo

The grant, provided by Complete College America as part of its national Completion Innovation Challenge, was announced Friday by Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia.

“We know that one of the best predictors of Colorado’s economic success is a well-educated workforce,” Hickenlooper said at a press conference at the state Capitol.

“This grant from Complete College America will enhance efforts to create innovative solutions to improving the state’s ability to help deliver remedial education. We must ensure that students get the support they need so they stay in school and move toward completing their degrees.”

Many high school grads unprepared for college work

A 2010 report on remedial education in Colorado found that almost 29 percent of recent high school graduates in Colorado need to take some sort of remedial coursework in college.

At the state’s community colleges, more than half of all students enrolled have had to take at least one remedial class.

Remedial classes don’t count toward graduation, and they must be completed before students can begin the coursework required for a degree.

“They lose money, they lose time and they lose heart,” said Garcia, who also serves as director of the state’s Department of Higher Education. “And all too often, they fail to graduate.”

And even if they do eventually graduate, most don’t graduate on time. Officials estimate that only half the students who enroll in a four-year degree program actually graduate within four years. Only a third of students working on a two-year program complete their students in two years.

“Far too often students enroll in college but aren’t able to complete their degree, which leaves the state with no return on its investment, and worse yet, the individual with student loan debt with nothing to show for it,” Garcia said.

Incentives, policy changes are planned

Part of the grant money – $300,000 – will be set aside as incentive money to reward community colleges who keep at least 80 percent of their remedial students in school for at least three semesters, said Geri Anderson, vice president and provost for the Colorado Community College System.

The rest of the grant money will pay for national experts to work with Colorado faculty to redesign remedial education programs and to jettison policies that needlessly slow down students’ transition from remedial to true college-level work, Anderson said.

Among the possible policy changes:

  • Eliminating college algebra as a requirement for all majors
  • Requiring students deficient in certain skills to test out of remedial classes more quickly once those skills are mastered
  • Allowing students to enroll concurrently in remedial and college-level coursework

“It’s long past time for bold innovation in higher education to remove unnecessary obstacles to success, fix broken policies that hold students back, speed achievement and redesign pathways to college graduation for the new majority of students who must balance work and school,” said Complete College America president Stan Jones.

Complete College America is a national nonprofit organization working with states to increase the number of Americans with a college degree or professional credential from 40 to 60 percent, and to close the attainment gaps for underrepresented populations.

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