Don’t cut out remedial courses

by Martin Jaakola

As Minnesota considers how to deal with surprisingly high college dropout rates  remedial courses have been pushed back into the spotlight as a possible explanation. 
Complete College America spouts some startling numbers. It may be that just 19 percent of students at four-year schools finish degrees on time, but the reality is nobody really knows how to deal with this issue. 
Because I’m a non-traditional student myself and I had to work my way through community college only to find out that some of my credits wouldn’t transfer to the University of Minnesota, I understand some of the frustration that students can encounter.
However Minnesota is considering a bill that would scrap remedial college courses, which cost money but don’t grant credits. Altogether, this seems to miss the point. These courses are likely a symptom of a larger problem rather than the problem itself.
Sure, it may well be the case that few high school graduates actually take a remedial class or that under 10 percent of students enrolled in remedial classes finish community college within three years. But eliminating the courses will not magically free up resources for those who are behind or have been out of school for extended periods of time.
Rather than ditching them, we should consider increasing individualized tutoring options or adopting something similar to a Chicago community college’s program “CASH-to-ROI,” in which students learned in study groups with a part-time teaching aid, yielding astonishing 40 to 50 percent increases in passing rates. 
Moreover, President Barack Obama’s proposal to make two years of community college tuition free for some people has the potential to solve many of these issues for those who struggle to pay for courses that don’t even yield credit. After all, this is the real issue at hand.