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Avoid Remedial Classes in Community College to Save Time & Money

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Some colleges require students to take remedial classes to catch up to other students, but these courses typically don't count towards your degree. Save time and money by avoiding the remedial classes and focusing on classes that count towards your degree.

Remedial Classes

Remedial classes are courses that may be required for students to build up their skills in math, reading, or English before they are allowed to take regular college courses. This not only means that you have to delay taking college-level courses until you complete the remedial courses, but it also means that you are paying for a course that won't count as credit towards your degree.

Will I be Required to Take Remedial Classes?

You may feel totally college ready. Maybe you recently graduated from high school with high marks, or maybe you've been picking up on skills by working before returning to college. So remedial courses, they're not going to apply to you...right?

Remedial Classes

According to Education Reform Now, approximately one-in-four college freshmen had to enroll in remedial courses during their first year in college. Looking at the total cost of these remedial classes, including private, public, and community colleges, the remedial class enrollment adds up to an estimated $1.5 billion annually.

While your courses may be less expensive in a community college than at a private college, the American Association of Community Colleges estimates that more community college students enroll in remedial courses as compared to public, four-year college students: 68% in community college as opposed to 40% in public, four-year colleges. You may be more at risk to enroll in a course that doesn't help contribute to your degree, which will increase your total length in college. If it takes you five years to complete college instead of the traditional four-year program, that's an extra years worth of courses you have to pay for.

Why Does it Matter?

Education Reform Now also found that full-time students seeking bachelor's degrees were 74% more likely to drop out of college if they took remedial courses in their first year, and those who do graduate take an average of 11 months longer than non-remedial students. An extra year in college is not cheap, even at a community college!

Graduation

Some colleges are reforming their policies, thanks to the nonprofit Complete College America who is campaigning for universities to offer remediation alongside college-level courses so students will stay on track to graduate within four years. Some colleges are now embedding remedial education into standard, credit-bearing courses, and others offer math lab courses for high school students struggling with the subject, but reform is not happening quickly enough.

Strategies for Avoiding Remedial Classes

Armed with the knowledge of what remedial classes are, what the impact is on your college costs and success rate, and knowing that education reform is not happening fast enough, you must take it in your own hands to avoid remedial classes. Luckily there are some strategies that can help you cut out the remedial classes and be prepared for college level courses.

It is up to your individual college to determine how students are placed in remedial courses. Some colleges use ACT or SAT scores, but most schools use post-enrollment placement exams to determine knowledge level. This is great news, because it means that you can take charge of your own education and place yourself above remedial-level by preparing for these placement exams.

If you're still in high school, you can take advanced classes your junior and senior year. Enroll in an AP class if your high school offers it, and study hard for the exam. The grade in the class is great for helping out your overall GPA, and some schools even give an extra .5 GPA bump for taking the advanced class, but the score will determine whether your community college will accept this exam as credit for a remedial course. AP Exam practice questions are even available online.

If your school doesn't offer AP classes, take math and English seriously your senior year. Most high schools don't require students to take math their last year, but you may get ahead by taking a math class anyway. Ask lots of questions and try to understand the concepts instead of just memorizing the formulas. Working hard and taking challenging classes your last year will be the difference between remedial classes and for-credit classes.

Exams

During your enrollment process, ask questions and find out whether your community college places students in remedial courses based on SAT or ACT scores, or by placement exam. Be prepared to earn good scores for the determining tests by hiring a tutor, taking a preparation course, or buying a preparation book. Study hard for these exams, your time invested in earning a good grade will be worth it. The cost of a tutor or a prep class may seem high, but it will be much less money and time than the remedial course you will have to take if you don't place high enough.

Your community college may also be able to tell you which exams will be required and whether they offer practice exams. Study the content of the exam, and hire a tutor if necessary. Enroll in free online resources like MyMathLab or MyMathTest to brush up on forgotten math skills. Placing high enough on these tests is critical to avoiding the remedial classes, which will in turn, help your overall success rate in graduation.

Hope

If you are placed in a remedial level course, don't lose hope. Ask if you can see the results of the exam so you know where your weaknesses are, and ask to re-take the test after you have had some time to strengthen those areas. Some community colleges may offer self-paced math labs as an alternative to remedial classes, or they may consider allowing you to enroll in a college-level class with extra tutoring. Some colleges are allowing students to take a remedial class as a co-requisite program, meaning it would be taken at the same time as the for-credit class, which will save you time and won't delay your graduation. Advocate for yourself and your chance to bypass the remedial level.

By Lindsay Mattison
February 2017
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