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February 10, 2005 :: Remediation Rates Drop in State, Math Remediation on the Decline

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First-time freshmen direct from Oklahoma high schools are taking fewer remedial courses at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities, according to an annual report presented to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education today. Older freshmen are taking more remedial courses, however.

Remedial courses are non-credit courses required in Oklahoma public colleges and universities for students who do not demonstrate minimum competencies in one or more of four areas: math, reading, English and science. Students who score below 19 on an ACT subject test in those areas must either enroll in a remedial course or undergo additional testing in that subject area.

The 2003-2004 Annual Student Remediation Report showed that from 1996-97 to 2003-04, the remediation rate for first-time freshmen from Oklahoma high schools dropped from 37.3 percent to 35.0 percent. The new figure is lower than the 37.4 percent for all first-time freshmen.

“We’re certainly pleased to see that remediation rates are declining,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “It’s important for our students to be properly prepared for college so that they can graduate in a timely manner.”

The student remediation report revealed that a higher percentage of older freshmen (21 years of age and older) require more remediation than their younger counterparts. Last year, 44.5 percent of older freshmen enrolled in remedial courses – an all-time high – compared to 34.8 percent for first-time freshmen younger than 21 years of age.

Higher education officials cite the recent economic downturn as a possible reason for the increase in the number and percentage of older students needing remediation. More Oklahomans are now attending college for the first time since high school and either never prepared themselves for college or need to brush up on their academic skills.

“Although there were record numbers of older freshmen taking remedial courses, the fact that they are willing to do what it takes to further their education is encouraging. I applaud them for their commitment and dedication and hope that they achieve their goals,” Risser said.

The report showed that the remediation rate for math decreased 0.7 of a percentage point from last year. Despite the drop, more freshmen enroll in remedial math than any other remediated subject. Officials expect that figure may decrease even further with new high school graduation requirements of additional mathematics now in place. The new requirements began with the class of 2003.

Out of the nearly 12,000 students enrolled in remedial courses in Oklahoma, 71.9 percent were taught at the community colleges, also the primary source of remediation in the nation. This compares to 24.0 percent of remedial students taught at the four-year regional universities and 4.1 percent taught at the state’s two research universities, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.

States vary in how they treat the costs of providing remedial courses. Students taking remedial courses in Oklahoma pay a fee in addition to tuition for each course they take. During the 2003-04 academic year, Oklahoma public colleges and universities generated $2.4 million from fees charged to offset costs of providing remedial courses.

The State Regents have implemented many initiatives during the past decade designed to reduce remediation rates and improve student success, including enhancing teacher preparation, increasing standards for college preparation, establishing better communication between Oklahoma high schools and facilitating cooperation among various state education entities. These and other state initiatives have resulted in Oklahoma being recognized nationally for teacher and student preparation efforts.

“We want all of our students to succeed in college. This will benefit our state as we strive to become a key economic player in the 21st century,” State Regents Chairman Jimmy Harrel said.

In other action, the State Regents were presented annual reports as part of the Oklahoma High School Indicators Project. The reports contain information about college-going rates and remediation rates, as well as headcount, semester hours and grade point averages of first-time freshmen. Among the highlights:

The high school indicators reports are a response to Senate Bill 183 from the 1989 legislature that required the State Department of Education to provide multiple types of evaluations and notify individual schools and districts of the evaluations. The bill also required that the general public be advised as to the “effectiveness” of individual schools or districts.