An Ohio Board of Regents study of students who were freshmen in 1998 found that, by 2004, students who needed remedial classes were only one-third as likely to have a bachelor’s degree as those who didn’t need such classes.
Fifteen percent of remedial students had bachelor’s degrees, compared with 47 percent of nonremedial students.
The report also points out that "about 38 percent of incoming freshmen at Ohio public colleges and universities take remedial courses." Thirty-eight percent — more than one in three!
When you’ve got over one-third of your students entering college needing remediation in subjects that are supposed to be taught, and learned, in high school, you’ve got one of two things happening. One possibility is that you have a large number of non-traditional students — so-called "adult" learners (although if you’re older than 18, you’re an adult) who return to college after a long time away from school, and all the stuff they learned (perhaps perfectly well) in high school has decayed away. I’ve had a small but increasing number of these kinds of students — one over the summer in calculus whose last math class was an algebra class taken 30 years ago! And he really needed remediation badly, to the extent that I just couldn’t patch all the holes in his background by myself. I really wonder whether the traditional system of remediation — that is, to take classes and more classes — really helps these folks, since they are often juggling families and jobs along with school. The prospect of taking, say, a year of remedial math just to get to the point where you can begin a major will be too much.
But the other possibility is that you have students coming out of high school who either didn’t take the requisite subjects they need for college, or else they took the classes but were socially promoted out of them without learning anything. In my experience, this option is a lot more common than the first. And when you couple this phenomenon with the following mindset:
"We’d all love it if we didn’t need remedial classes," [a remedial math prof] said. "But we’re not living in a perfect world. Everyone deserves the opportunity to go on to college and pursue their dream of higher education. We have to provide all the services for members of our community so they can be successful in their academic choices."
…then you have students coming out of high school with no skill in the prerequisite college subjects, no preparation for the academic work of college, but full of a sense of entitlement that they are somehow owed a college education. The above quote is symptomatic of an attitude that, frankly, is killing higher education slowly. Yes, everyone deserves an opportunity. And they have that opportunity: it’s called doing well in high school. We have to stop expecting colleges and universities to provide second, third, etc. chances to learn basic subjects that ought to be learned in high school by the students who have just been there.