Friday, March 10, 2006

The cost of low math skills, and to whom 

Reading Joanne Jacobs' post on the cost to universities of remediation got me to wondering how many SCSU students go through remedial courses. This isn't pretty. For Fall 2005 semester:

MATH 070 (Basic Mathematical Concepts)
Enrolled 641
Completed 563
Freshmen 437

MATH 072 (Intermediate Algebra)
Enrolled 216
Completed 165
Freshmen 114

Here are the course descriptions. You can see they're remedial because they do not count towards graduation. You must take a test to get into the 100-level mathematics courses that do count.

Those credits cost a student $548 for each class. The state subsidizes for about the same rate. We admit about 2200 new entering freshmen a year, so you can see that about a third need at least some remediation; for those in MATH 070, their next step will be to take MATH 072 unless they can retake the math placement test and get out of it. So taxpayers are paying nearly $650,000 for getting these students up to a level of math that would let them take ... general education math at a college level, which is more than a bit short of calculus. Students not completing these classes -- a significant percentage -- must retake, and pay again, as does the taxpayer.

Were there graduation exams in high school written as tests of college readiness, it would put out of business programs like our Division of General Studies. When universities have a harder time filling their entering classes with qualifying students, it's not unusual to see DGS enrollments grow.

Checker Finn is suggesting the school districts sending out these underprepared students should pay for these remediation courses. Fat chance!

Categories: ,