The California State University system has decided to end its current remedial classes, but what will that mean for students and the value of a college degree?
CSU Chancellor Timothy White issued an executive order last week to eliminate the schools’ placement exams and remedial courses for incoming freshman whose math and English skills may not meet college standards.
Campuses may offer replacement programs, such as additional tutoring or the option of stretching general education courses out over multiple semesters to give students more time to catch up.
The changes are intended to improve graduation rates and college affordability, since remedial courses do not count toward graduation requirements. The CSU system suffers from a mere 19 percent four-year graduation rate, which it has pledged to more than double to 40 percent by 2025.
“The idea that students have to take courses that don’t count toward their degree costs them money and costs them time,” James Minor, CSU senior strategist for academic success and inclusive excellence, told the Sacramento Bee. “It really invites first-generation students to question whether or not they really belong in college,” he added.
But is it really such an imposition to require up to three remediation classes during a student’s first year, particularly if their skills are subpar? If students — first-generation or otherwise — cannot demonstrate a very basic level of proficiency in key academic skills, then they probably don’t belong in college.
If the remedial program really is totally ineffective, then scrapping the program is the right move. If not, however, it is a disservice to students and taxpayers alike to shove more unqualified students into college, which will only lead to more dropouts and/or the dilution of the value of the college degrees they receive. How much will a CSU degree be worth to employers if campuses are graduating more students that lack basic math and English skills?
The large percentage of those entering college unprepared suggests that something must be done to catch them up if they are to remain in, much less graduate from, college.
The larger problem is that so many high school graduates are unprepared for college in the first place. Nearly 40 percent of incoming CSU freshmen are required to take remedial classes. This reflects a failure of the K-12 system. No wonder so many parents and students, particularly in disadvantaged communities with failing schools…