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Remedial Placement Testing in Community Colleges: What Resources Are Required, and What Does It Cost?

By: Olga Rodríguez, Brooks Bowden, Clive Belfield & Judith Scott-Clayton


In this paper, the authors estimate the costs to colleges and students of remedial placement systems at community college. Using the ingredients method, they catalog the inputs required to perform placement tests and price these inputs out to derive the total cost of assigning students to either college-level or remedial courses. The authors use detailed data from three community colleges for their costs analysis.

The authors find that colleges spend $30–$44 per student per subject (English or math) on assessing students for placement into remediation. Student time represents a substantial proportion of the total burden of placement testing; when this time is included, the total costs rise to $54–$71 per student per subject. These amounts appear low compared with the costs of “treatment” (remediation) and compared with the costs of misplacement of students into remediation instead of college-level courses.