Education officials: Most students enter college needing help with English or math

The majority of high school graduates who enroll at one of the state’s community colleges or in the Connecticut State University System are not ready for college-level math or English courses, education officials said Wednesday.

“This has been an ongoing issue for many years,” said Mary Anne Cox, assistant chancellor for the dozen community colleges in the state, where 72 percent of incoming students for the fall 2009 semester were found to need remedial courses in math, English or both. “We need to reduce this need for remediation if we want to close this achievement gap.”

In the four-campus Connecticut State University System, two-thirds of the incoming students were required to take remedial courses, according to the report compiled by state’s P20 council, which is led by Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti and State Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan. The number of students who require such courses at the University of Connecticut was not included, since UConn technically does not have remedial courses.

Meotti said UConn does have a “tiny number” of students who take a math course that is remedial in all but the name.

Education officials expressed disappointment in the findings of the report.

“It all come down to whether students are ready for college, and this says not enough are. That has to change,” said Meotti.

Bernard Kavaler, spokesman for the 37,000-student CSUS, said in a statement that the system’s four universities are working with high schools to ensure fewer incoming students will need remedial courses. Also, he said. the admission standards will become tighter beginning with the 2015-16 school year, which should reduce the number of students in need of these courses.

The report did not say how many students required to take a remedial course were able to successfully complete it, but Meotti said he believes a significant number of students do not pass.

“A good portion of those that leave in their freshman year are tied to those needing remedial courses,” he said. “That’s costing colleges a lot of money.”

A recent report estimated that the cost of educating students at the state’s five public four-year universities who did not make it to their second year totaled about $21 million for the 2007-08 school year. That tally did not include the costs for states to subsidize community colleges.

Only about half the students enrolled in remedial courses between 2000 and 2007 at the state’s community colleges passed the course, Cox said.

State funding for community colleges has been flat lined the past few years, while enrollment has exploded – an occurrence Cox says has caused remedial class sizes to increase from an average of 17 students in each class a few years ago to around 25 students now.

“They won’t benefit from a large lecture hall so we’ve tried to keep the classes as small as possible,” she said.