How many Minnesota students are in remedial courses?

It's usually about math

Right on the heels of the closing of the Corrick Center for at-risk students at MSU-Moorhead, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU) has released a report on remedial education across the state’s higher-ed institutions: “Getting Prepared: A 2010 Report on Recent High School Graduates Who Took Developmental/Remedial Courses.”

The 56-page document looks at students from the high school class of 2008 and what they had done in the two years after high school graduation.

(Note: MnSCU tends to use the word “remedial” to describe classes that students take to cover material they may have covered but never mastered in high school. “Developmental” describes classes covering material they were never exposed to in high school.)

Here’s a really quick look at the main findings:

  • The need for remediation is up slightly. Four in 10 public college students from the class of 2008 have taken have taken at least one remedial course. That’s up two percentage points from the last measurement three years ago — putting the number around 13,000 students. MnSCU officials said that doesn’t mean college readiness is on the decline. The likely reason for the increase is that more high-school grads are going to college, they said. (I interpret that to mean that students who in years past may not have been as academically strong as the usual college batch are now included in the stats. Enrollment in public higher education institutions within two years of high school graduation has risen from 45 percent of the class of 2000 to 53 percent of the class of 2008.)
  • One course is often enough. Of those students above, 45 percent needed only one course. Thirty-nine percent took two or three, and 16 percent took four or more.
  • Math was the weak point. It made up half of the remedial course credits. (Remedial math ranges from basic math to high-school intermediate algebra.) About a quarter of the credits were in writing courses, and the rest were in areas such as reading or study skills.
  • Remedial students tend to be at the two-year colleges. Eighty-seven percent attended a two-year college, 12 percent went to a state university, and 1 percent attended the University of Minnesota. (Whereas two-years can admit anyone with a high school diploma or GED,  U of M admissions are more selective and thus have fewer in need of remedial education.)