Over Time, Less Remedial Coursework

Some of the public agitation currently sweeping state legislatures and public policy circles over remedial education is driven by the impression that more and more underprepared students are pouring into higher education, and then lingering too long in unsuccessful remedial programs.

New data from the U.S. Education Department raise some doubt about the first of those two hypotheses.

A study released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics, "First-Year Undergraduate Remedial Coursetaking: 1999-2000, 2003-04, and 2007-08," shows that the proportion of first-year undergraduate students reporting that they took remedial courses rose slightly from 2003-4 to 2007-8, to 20 percent from 19 percent.

But the 2007-8 figure was significantly lower than the 26 percent reported by first-year students in 1999-2000, a pattern that holds for many different types of institutions and students, as seen in the tables below.

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