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Remedial Education in Community Colleges

In the United States, remedial education, which is also known as basic skills education, developmental education, compensatory education, academic upgrading or preparatory education, is developed to assist students in receiving academic competencies in specific academic skills including numeracy and literacy. While both four-year and two-year institutions offer remedial education, the majority of remedial courses center on advancing underprepared and under-skilled students in math or literacy, science or even basic study concepts.

Community colleges accept enrollment of any student with high school degree regardless of their academic achievements since the remedial courses are offered in multiple semesters that help improve their low placement scores. There are several remedial course models delivered in community colleges and these include the following, but not limited to, semester-long/traditional courses, comprehensive/intensive courses for skills preparation and acceleration, and computer-based/online semester model.

The estimated student costs

The Community College Research Center found that around 60% of students enrolled at community college require remedial classes particularly to those who had low placement scores. The remedial classes are usually paid for the students through grants and loans. One problem seen in the report is that most of the students who had been out of school for more than 10 years find it difficult to pass remedial classes, which means that they could not progress to the traditional academic model of community college learning.

Another problem is focused on the actual cost to students: one quarter of students taking remedial classes graduate within 4 to 6 years. This means that the costs are higher when students take enroll in special classes with heavier class loads and extra hours of preparation. On a more positive note, the students will get all the help they need to jump start their academic track. As long as students become dedicated in the learning opportunities, remedial classes can be a way to help them improve their academic performance and skills before entering formal community college education.

In order to address cost challenges, state lawmakers are reforming the current picture of remedial classes. Acceleration classes are offered in some community colleges to improve student success rate. These remedial classes already include vocational and occupational classes so that students can quickly compete and develop their skills at the same time. The Community College Research Center found that with the help of acceleration courses, the time it takes for remedial students to finish basic literacy and numeracy is higher.

Final thoughts

Remedial classes in community colleges should not be viewed as a competition between students. It is supposed to help them improve their academic performance while providing a way to continue college education from which they can choose if they want to enter the workforce or proceed with four-year schooling. It is a good thing that acceleration programs are now offered to address the challenges faced by community colleges in terms of increasing enrollment of students who take up remedial classes.

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