Fewer Washington college students require remedial coursework; postsecondary enrollment holding steady at 60%

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction recently released data on postsecondary enrollment and remediation rates

Overall, the data show postsecondary remediation rates for math and English courses decreased almost six percentage points between 2011 and 2015, from 38.8 percent to 32.9 percent.

In the same time frame, postsecondary enrollment rates for all students attending two- and four-year public and private colleges both in- and out-of-state has remained steady between 59 and 61 percent, with the rate being 59.9 percent for the Class of 2015.

As we wrote in our 2017 foundation report update, Washington must continue to boost postsecondary enrollment.

Increasingly, the majority of jobs in Washington will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential (such as a technical or industry certificate, apprenticeship, or degree). Today, just 31 percent of Washington high school students go on to attain such a credential by the age of 26. The mismatch between workforce readiness and job openings hampers our collective ability to take advantage of the potential economic growth that lies ahead.

Preparing more Washington kids for Washington jobs requires a cradle-to-career approach to raising student achievement. The Washington Roundtable has set an ambitious goal: By 2030, 70 percent of Washington high school students will go on to attain a postsecondary credential by age 26. Opportunity Washington supports such a vision…

The OSPI press release included this statement from the elected Superintendent.

“We have been working on decreasing remediation rates and increasing postsecondary enrollment for many years,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “To see these efforts working means more students are getting what they need to be successful in postsecondary opportunities.”

We learned of the improvement remediation rates from this Seattle Times editorial, which notes more needs to be done.

About 33 percent of students who graduated from high school in 2015 took these noncredit earning remedial courses when they enrolled in college. That’s an improvement from the 39 percent in 2011. The numbers are still much higher — about 44 percent — among students from low-income families.

That’s important because taking a remedial class is associated with a higher risk of never graduating from college. The reasons are a lot more complicated than just saying those students weren’t prepared for college work.

The editorial cites some promising innovations.

Washington college officials are making progress with some promising new approaches.Data from a new national college initiative called Strong Start to Finish shows 68 percent of participating students, no matter their race or economic situation, pass college math and English classes in their first try when they are allowed to skip the remedial courses and go straight into a regular college class with some extra help.

This simple new approach is no more expensive than offering remedial classes — and makes more sense.

With the support of College Spark and others, Washington colleges offer classes that allow students to move at their own pace and pass from remedial to regular college courses during the same semester.

There’s more; we recommend the editorial. 

Also, the president of Bellingham Technical College celebrates the school’s 60th anniversary in an op-ed in the Bellingham Herald. Among the points she makes:

Whether you realize it or not, what happens at BTC plays a part in your life. It’s the quiet ripple effect of a good education. Aside from the services and improvements they provide to their communities, BTC grads are good for the economy. BTC alumni bring $117.4 million to regional income annually through increased productivity, according to an Emsi economic modelling study from 2011…

It is time to reframe the view and value of the education that technical colleges produce. Preparing students for technical careers is an investment, and it pays dividends: highly trained workers who support their community both with much-needed skills and tax dollars.