More MN State college students skipping remedial courses

Published 10:29 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

By Josh Verges

St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — Minnesota State schools are getting their students into credit-bearing college courses faster, saving millions of dollars in tuition and boosting their chances of earning a degree, the higher education system reported Tuesday.

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Last year, 12 percent of the system’s new students were enrolled in remedial courses, which cost money but do not come with college credit. Four years earlier, that figure was 18 percent.

That decrease is saving students $15.6 million on tuition and fees this year, officials said.

“It’s a phenomenal result,” Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor Steven Rosenstone told trustees Tuesday. “This is a very significant change in a very short period of time.”

Ron Anderson, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said several factors are at play:

•Colleges and universities are using other factors besides Accuplacer scores to decide whether a student is college ready.

•The colleges are working more closely with school districts to align curriculum and assessments.

•And the system is working with other state agencies and community groups to prepare adult learners for college.

At the same time, Minnesota State’s 30 colleges and seven universities are getting more of their under-prepared students to complete the remedial courses and keep working toward a degree, officials said.

Pakou Yang, system director of the Minnesota P-20 Education Partnership and college readiness, said students can now transfer developmental coursework from one college to another. And the system is asking schools to enable students to complete developmental courses and their initial credit-bearing math, reading and writing classes in a single academic year.

Trustees cheered the report.

“This has been an issue that we’ve been very, very disappointed with over the years,” Robert Hoffman said.

Anderson said reducing the need for developmental courses will especially benefit low-income students and students of color. He said 32 percent of students of color and American Indians enter college under-prepared, compared with 13 percent of white students.

“We know it’s extremely important that this work continues to be done well,” he said. “It’s particularly critical as we look at how we eliminate disparities between our student groups.”

Looking ahead, Rosenstone is advocating that the state begin administering the ACT college entrance exam as the state’s high school accountability test in place of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments.

The state is working on a new school accountability system to comply with a change in federal law. Rosenstone said it’s an important opportunity to align high school and college standards and ultimately boost college readiness and completion.

“We cannot have a system in Minnesota where the standard for high school graduation is here and the standard for college readiness is here and think that we’re serving students,” Rosenstone said.

Lawmakers have considered the test change in recent years but determined the ACT does not sufficiently match what high schools are expected to teach.

Riverland Community College is part of Minnesota State.
—Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.