Saturday, July 04, 2009

Community colleges and states selected to boost college graduation rates by improving remedial courses and strategies

This includes $3,272,000 in grants for Texas. -Patricia

Effort will build on promising remedial programs and inform others on innovative ways to help more students earn their college degrees

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MDC, Inc. announced $16.5 million in grants to 15 community colleges and five states to expand groundbreaking remedial education programs that experts say are key to dramatically boosting the college completion rates of low-income students and students of color.

A recent report from Jobs for the Future found that that nearly 60 percent of students enrolling in the nation’s community colleges must take remedial classes to build their basic academic skills. For low-income students and students of color, the figure topped 90 percent at some colleges. Remedial classes cost taxpayers more than $2 billion a year, money that is mostly wasted as few students even complete the classes, let alone continue on to graduate.

The grants announced today will fund the Developmental Education Initiative, which will build upon the most promising programs developed through Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count, a multi-year national initiative to boost graduation rates at community colleges, particularly among low-income students and students of color. The remedial education models developed by the 15 community colleges receiving these grants represent some of the most promising work in the country aimed at boosting college completion rates among struggling students.

The lessons learned through Achieving the Dream—such as streamlining high school and college standards, using technology to boost basic skills, and the power of mentorships—are proving that these students can succeed when colleges develop programs that fit students’ needs.

More than 133,000 students take remedial education classes in the 15 community colleges selected for these latest grants. The number of students moving from remedial to college-level courses improved 16 to 20 percent through these selected programs.

Achieving the Dream was launched as a partnership in 2004 with funding from Lumina Foundation for Education. Lumina is also committing $1.5 million to this latest initiative for evaluation and communications. Jobs for the Future is the advocacy partner for Achieving the Dream.

"The pressing need to shore up weak academic skills in first-year students is one of the most significant, but least discussed, problems confronting higher education,” said Carol Lincoln, director of the Developmental Education Initiative and national director of Achieving the Dream for MDC. “Colleges that can figure out how to quickly and efficiently boost basic skills, particularly among students of color and low-income students, will play a leading role in helping them earn the college degrees necessary for economic success in America today.”

The grants also will support state-level efforts in Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia to implement new data collection systems that will help them better track the success of their remedial programs. A sixth state, North Carolina, will participate with its own funding. These states have also pledged to measure their progress against those in other states.

“Too many institutions have not developed powerful and effective ways to accelerate academic progress for students who start college underprepared,” said Hilary Pennington, director of Education, Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “By working together, states, community colleges, and local school districts can design programs to accelerate high-quality learning and shorten the amount of time it takes to earn a degree.”

The grants announced today advance the Gates Foundation’s efforts to help ensure every young person in the United States graduates from high school ready for college and obtains a postsecondary degree that prepares them to succeed in the global economy.

In today’s America, a college degree or postsecondary certificate is required to obtain a family-wage job and a shot at the middle class. Until recently, education reform efforts and national policies have focused on increasing access to college, but have done little to help students earn credentials that employers value. The Obama administration has called on the states and education leaders to work together to help the United States lead the world in percentage of college graduates by 2020.

Go here to see a summary of the grants by state.

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