Students who fare well in a new Delaware high school English course are guaranteed to enter credit-bearing English classes at Delaware colleges and universities. The Foundations of College English course was developed through funding from Strada Education Network in partnership with the Delaware Department of Education and Delaware institutions of higher education to reduce college remediation rates.
The development of this course begs the larger question: Why are so many college students in Delaware enrolled in remedial courses?
According to The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, about half of first-year college students discover that, despite earning excellent GPAs in high school, they are simply not ready for the rigors of college level classes.
In Delaware, 42% of public high school graduates entering an in-state college or university will begin their post-secondary education behind their peers (data from state’s 2016 College Success Report). And all across the country, far too many students are graduating from high school unprepared for the difficulty of a college course.
In addition, students who do not score well on college placement tests may be forced to take, and pass, non-credit, remedial courses before entering the college-level courses required for their degrees. These courses often cost the same as credit-bearing classes, but don’t count toward a student’s degree.
The truth is, sadly, acceptance to college does not guarantee real readiness for college.
The impact of remedial courses
Nationally, less than 50 percent of students enrolled in remedial courses actually finish them. Furthermore, 3 in every 10 students who require remediation in college never graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree.
For some students taking remedial courses can set them a full semester or more behind. For students depending on financial aid to cover the costs of college, this can increase their overall debt as many scholarships will not cover these courses.
Several states across the country are starting to examine the remediation issue as more students are dropping out of college, taking longer to complete their degrees or graduating with significant debt. Remediation numbers are also significantly higher for students of color, students with special needs, English language learners (ELLs), and students from low-income families.
Preparing properly for college level courses
For students, the path to remediation begins early. As students and parents work with their schools to select classes each year, they may not realize that not all classes will equally prepare students for success in college. The difference between an Advanced Placement course or a college prep course may ultimately mean a student graduates less prepared for college-level English, for example.
Similarly, students taking less rigorous courses in math will find themselves more likely to be placed in remedial courses. This means that a student placed in Algebra II over calculus is also at a disadvantage and more likely to need college remediation than if the student had been given the opportunity to enroll in more-difficult classes.
“The shift from 12th grade to college should be as simple as the shift from eighth grade to ninth grade or kindergarten to first grade,” said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer. “Every student with a college acceptance letter and a Delaware high school diploma should be prepared to succeed in the college he or she chooses to attend.”
College preparation opportunities in Delaware
Over the past few years, Delaware school districts have increased access to college-level courses such as dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. In addition, the state began a pilot course in the 2014-15 school year called Foundations of College Math to serve as a bridge course for students likely to require remediation in college.
These efforts are showing signs of early progress and the state has seen an overall reduction in remediation rates since 2012. For more information on the state’s 2016 College Success Report, visit the Delaware Department of Education.