Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UTPA, STC seeing drop in remedial students

Daniel Perry / The Monitor
September 15, 2007
McALLEN — The number of students taking remedial courses at the University of Texas – Pan American this fall has decreased from this time last year.

South Texas College’s remedial figure should be finalized Monday, but President Shirley A. Reed anticipated the number lower than last fall’s 4,708 students out of 18,460 students in remedial courses.

English, reading and mathematics remedial classes are covered by financial aid and are included on transcripts at both institutions. But, they do not count toward degrees at either campus.

Depending on with what students have difficulty, both campuses can prevent them from signing up for classes like history, college algebra and English, which heavily emphasize the remedial subject areas.

UTPA counted 1,355 students — mostly freshmen — taking remedial subjects this fall. The university’s student enrollment on Wednesday stood at 17,418 students. The remedial figure is a drop from the fall 2006 total of 1,496 students.

Richard Treviño, the university’s director for student support services, credits the drop to increasing the minimum ACT score for admission. For fall 2005, the university required an ACT score of 15; that number will rise for every two years until fall 2011 to top out at 18.

Many students are in remedial courses because there is a disconnect between the state required Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills and college placement tests, like the THEA and Accuplacer, Treviño said.

“Once you go above and beyond TAKS requirements, then you are getting in the college-level type of preparation,” he said. “But, we will always have remediation until we align a test that measures high school preparedness and college equality all in one.”

A lot of the students entering STC have other challenges, Reed said: They might be older than the average incoming freshman or not taken mathematics courses in recent years.

“All of that contributes and I personally just don’t think it’s fair to criticize students because they are not ready for college,” she said. “It’s based on a (college readiness) test and we are at the mercy of the validity of that test.”

STC student Giselle Medina, 19, of McAllen is taking a remedial reading course this semester. The pharmacy technician major said being in the remedial program has helped her adapt to college-level work.

“A lot of the stuff you learn in high school is just to pass that,” Medina said about TAKS.

Reed said some students do not realize the importance of Accuplacer, which the college has converted to using because it provides quicker results for staff and students. STC has started four-hour review sessions for students to attend before they take Accuplacer. The college had used the THEA in the past.

STC has also gathered area business, government, education and economic development leaders the last two years to discuss the need to work together for college readiness. Reed said the gatherings were held to change the environment of blame she sensed people in these subject areas laid down when it came to high school graduates making the college transition.

Daniel Perry covers education and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4454.

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