Each year, an estimated 1.7 million U.S. college students are steered to remedial classes to catch them up and prepare them for regular coursework. But a growing body of research shows the courses are eating up time and money, often leading not to degrees but student loan hangovers.
The expense of remedial courses, which typically cost students the same as regular classes but don't fulfill degree requirements, run about $3 billion annually, according to new research by Complete College America, a Washington-based national nonprofit working to increase the number of students with a college degree.
The group says the classes are largely failing the nation's higher education system at a time when student-loan debt has become a presidential campaign issue. Meanwhile, lawmakers in at least two states have pushed through changes and numerous institutions are redesigning the courses.
"Simply putting (students) in three levels of remedial math is really taking their money and time with no hope of success," said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America.
The group's research shows just 1 in 10 remedial students graduate from community colleges within three years and a little more than a third complete bachelor's degrees in six years. Yet the classes are widespread, with more than 50 percent of students entering two-year colleges and nearly 20 percent of those entering four-year universities put in at least one remedial course, the report said.