Texas college prep experiment shows modest promise for helping remedial students

Tim Goral's picture

The push is on to make college degrees a reality for more students, and the need for remedial courses on U.S. campuses has increased as a result. That makes college more expensive, and might not be helping.

About 40 percent of traditional-age college students and nearly 60 percent of those who attend community college must take at least one remedial course, according to a study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Students with greater academic deficiencies are often referred to a sequence of three or more semester-length courses in a single subject area, significantly delaying entry into credit-bearing classes and possibly lessening chances of college completion. Research published in the Economics of Education Review shows that fewer than half of students in remedial classes complete their recommended sequence of courses.

To combat the problem, the state of Texas funded 22 colleges to establish summer bridge programs to help underprepared students get a good start at college. The summer bridge effort began in 2007, and a study to evaluate the program at eight of the schools followed in 2012.

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