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March 21, 2012 3:36 PM Cal State’s Bad Remediation Plan

By Daniel Luzer

Yesterday I wrote about Connecticut’s promising plan to address remediation: stop offering remedial courses and just embed extra help in real, credit bearing courses.

Many states are now getting interested in finding a way to address remediation, the courses colleges force students to take before they can earn college credits.

Connecticut has one reform plan. Another option is California State University’s, which seems to make a lot less sense. Cal State will make students take remedial courses before they start college. According to a piece by Kevin Yamamura in the Sacramento Bee:

In the California State University system, which accepts the top third of high school graduates, most freshmen have to take basic composition courses or review algebra in classes that don’t count toward a degree. In 2010, 57 percent of CSU freshmen required remediation in English or mathematics.
This summer, CSU will require for the first time that incoming students begin remedial work before their fresh- man year under a new Early Start program. Students can fulfill the requirement by taking a basic skills course at their local community college or CSU campus if available, or by taking an online session.

Making students take remedial courses before they start school in the fall isn’t likely to be terribly effective at preparing students for college.

That’s because most separate remedial courses don’t work. Requiring students to take (and pay for) separate remedial classes doesn’t, in general, prepare them to take college-level courses. It mostly discourages them and pushes them to drop out.

Beyond that, however, this program just doesn’t make any sense. Cal State is not an open access college. If the students aren’t ready to learn college material, don’t admit them. Once an institution decides to admit certain students, it’s the institution’s responsibility to educate them.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer