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When College Students Start Behind

By: Thomas Bailey & Shanna Smith Jaggars


When College Students Start Behind

Almost two thirds of students who enter community colleges every year are judged to be academically not ready to engage in college-level coursework. In order to enroll, these students typically must take one or more “remedial” or “developmental” math or English courses that will not count toward their college degree.

The bulk of the evidence, however, suggests that the $4 billion annual investment in services to help underprepared students is having little positive impact on the success of those students in community colleges. This report for The Century Foundation's College Completion Series reviews that research, describes findings from studies on four types of reforms underway at various colleges, and concludes with the argument that a wholesale redesign of the student experience at community colleges is needed to make a real difference in the outcomes of underprepared students.