Remediation, Persistence and Retention

Remediation, Persistence and Retention

Impact of Remedial Education

The likelihood of persisting and completing a college degree is drastically decreased if a student takes remedial (high school level or developmental) courses in college. In a study of 80 community colleges, only 20 percent of students who were referred to remedial math classes persisted to take college-level credit-bearing math classes. For remedial reading courses, only 37 percent of students persisted to take college-level reading courses.17

In 2015, Iowa community college students enrolled in 85,709 credit hours of remedial education, a decrease of 12 percent from 2014. The course most frequently taken was Pre-Algebra, with 6,000 students enrolled.Minorities are over-represented in remedial education. Over half (52 percent) of remedial courses were taken by minority students. This is higher than the percentage of minority enrollment in community colleges (19 percent).18

While remedial education is often associated with community college enrollment, 43 percent of remedial students nationally were enrolled in public or private
four-year institutions or private two-year institutions. Remedial education is not limited to students in the lowest income bracket. Almost half of remedial students in the U.S. (45 percent) came from families with incomes greater than $48,000.19

Students taking remedial coursework incur more college expenses and take longer to graduate, as remedial courses do not count as college credit toward a degree. Nationally, students are borrowing an extra $380 million a year to take high school level courses in college.19 Approximately two out of five U.S. community college students earn a two-year degree within six years and only one-tenth go on to earn a four-year degree.20

Several states have implemented co-requisite remediation in community colleges and have seen substantial gains in the number of students who persist in college despite requiring remedial coursework. In this model, students take a college-level course but are concurrently enrolled in an academic support class for each subject, instead of taking the remedial course prior to the college-level course. In four states that adopted co-requisite remediation, the percentage of students who completed the college level course doubled or tripled, and the time for completion was cut in half (one year for co-requisite remediation versus two years for standard remedial coursework).21

Retention by Age, Race and Income Level

First-year retention is greatest among students at Iowa Regent Universities, with 86 percent of first-year students returning for a second year. Private, not-for-profit colleges and universities in Iowa have a 76 percent retention rate, and community colleges have a 57 percent retention rate. Private, for-profit institutions have the lowest retention rate, with 47 percent.4

Persistence in college is related to student age, race or ethnicity, and income level.22 The Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) Longitudinal Study surveys first-time college students in the U.S. three years after initial enrollment to determine student outcomes. The percentage of students who began college but did not complete a postsecondary credential increased with the age of the student, from 22 percent for students starting immediately after high school to 54 percent for students age 30 or older. A few factors that might negatively affect persistence for older students include working while attending school or being a single parent while a student.23

Approximately 34 percent of all BPS students dropout within 3 years. Asian students had the fewest dropouts at 21 percent, compared to black students at 43 percent. Black and Hispanic students are often less prepared, requiring remediation and contributing to attrition.24 High-income students are more likely to persist than low-income students, with dropout rates of 16 and 34 percent, respectively. Having limited access to financial assistance or working while attending school negatively impacts persistence of low-income students.23

17)   Bailey, T., Jeong, D.W., Cho, S-W. (2009). Referral, Enrollment and Completion in Developmental Education Sequences in Community Colleges. Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University.
18)   Iowa Department of Education Division of Community Colleges. (2015). The Annual Condition of Iowa’s Community Colleges.
19)   Barry, M.N. & Dannenberg, M. (2016). Out of Pocket: The High Cost of Inadequate High Schools and High School Student Achievement of College Affordability. Education Reform Now.
20)   Center for Community College Student Engagement. (2016). Expectations meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges. The University of Texas at Austin.
21)   Complete College America. (2016). Corequisite Remediation: Spanning the Completion Divide.

Printed from the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website on March 25, 2018 at 12:16am.