September 27, 2012

The Effects of College Remediation

Of tremendous interest and scrutiny in the community college world the past few years has been the need for remediation and the research into its impact on student learning. Half of all college students take at least one remedial course as part of their postsecondary experience.

According to a study, "Development, Discouragement, or Diversion? New Evidence on the Effects of College Remediation" by Judith Scott-Clayton and Olga Rodriguez (August 2012. National Bureau of Economic Research), the primary effect of remediation appears to be diversionary. Students simply take remedial courses instead of college-level courses.

With data from a large urban community college system, this paper looks at  three alternative models of remediation. In addition to credits and degree completion, the researchers examined the initial decision to enroll, grades in subsequent college courses, and post-treatment proficiency test scores.

Sadly, the evidence from this study suggests that remediation does little to develop students’ skills. The diversionary effect of students taking remedial courses instead of college-level courses has the greatest effects for the lowest-risk students.

A PDF version of this paper is available for download at

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