Nobody really wants to take remedial classes, which are a prerequisite for higher level courses, but do not count for college credit. Think of it like a fifth year of high school, except that they cost the same as a class that does earn credit, usually around $300-$600 per class.
Bethany Martin, a freshman at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, was surprised when she enrolled and was told she needed to retake classes she had studied in high school. Most blame the need for remedial courses on a disconnect between what is expected from high school and college students.
“We need to better align what we expect somebody to be able to do to graduate high school,” said Billie A. Unger, the dean at Martin’s school. “If I’m to be a pro football player, and you teach me basketball all through school, I’ll end up in [remedial] sports.”
In a recent law passed by the Obama administration, high school and college administrations are working together to make the USA the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.
“This is a breakthrough, the first time we’ve had federal policies try to move the public schools and the post-secondary systems closer together by demanding preparation in high school and persistence in college,” said Michael Kirst, a Stanford University professor who has studied the effects of remedial courses on college campuses. “Right now, high schools hand students off to colleges and declare victory. They say, ‘A high percentage of our graduates went to college,’ but they don’t look at how many had to take remedial courses. And the colleges blame the high schools for not preparing students, but don’t work to align the courses. The two systems don’t communicate well at all.”
Martin is just one of more than a million college freshmen who have to take remedial courses. However, under the new education laws, hopefully this number will go down as high schools and colleges start working together.
Martin says she is in remedial classes because her high school did not adequately prepare her for college. The principal of Martin’s high school, Regina Phillips, has high hopes for her school.
“The dropout rate was below standard,” said Phillips. “In many courses, the rigor wasn’t there. Over time, we’ll be providing the colleges with the level of students they deserve.”