Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Effects of College Remediation Policy

Half of all college students will enroll in remedial coursework but evidence of its effectiveness is mixed.  This study finds that remedial assignment does little to develop students’ skills. But it also finds little evidence that it discourages initial enrollment or persistence, except for a subgroup we identify as potentially misassigned to remediation. Instead, the primary effect of remediation appears to be diversionary: students simply take remedial courses instead of college-level courses. These diversionary effects are largest for the lowest-risk students.

Assignment to remediation is generally made on the basis of performance on a placement exam. When students are required to take a placement exam prior to enrolling in college-level courses, assignment to remediation may dissuade students from actually going to college. This is because remediation could increase the time required to complete a degree (because remedial courses do not count toward academic degrees), and also because being identified as needing remediation might have stigma effects or provide students with new information about their unsuitability for college. 

This paper examines this issue empirically using administrative data from Texas and finds that students whose placement exam scores would require them to be in remediation are no less likely to enroll in college than are students who score just above the remediation placement cutoff.

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