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Terry Spradlin
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, April 27, 2006

More Indiana college students playing catch up

Indiana University report offers suggestions for reversing the trend

April 27, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Increasing numbers of Indiana public college students are taking remedial courses to bring them up to speed, a report by Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy has found. But CEEP researchers expect the state's plans to beef up academic expectations of high school students to reverse this trend.

"It has been well documented that college participation rates for Indiana high school graduates have increased sharply, which is great news," stated Terry Spradlin, associate director for education policy at CEEP. "However, increases in the rate of participation by college students in remedial coursework is reason for concern. Recent efforts initiated by education leaders and policymakers to reverse this negative trend must continue, but at a more aggressive and accelerated pace."

The report notes that 23.3 percent of the 92,624 freshman students pursuing degrees in Indiana's public colleges and universities in 2003-04 took at least one remedial mathematics or language arts course. The need for college remediation is a strong predictor that a student will fail to achieve a college degree. According to the CEEP report, poor high school preparation of students, increasing student enrollment in higher education, and heightened competition in the job market all have contributed to an increase in college remediation participation in Indiana and nationally.

The policy brief, "Examining College Remediation Trends in Indiana," reviews the status of remedial education at the postsecondary level by examining state and national data and considers why college-level remedial programs are necessary. The brief also examines the costs and systems of delivery for these programs and strategies to lessen the need for remediation. The report is available at

The report notes that Indiana is one of 22 states to join in the American Diploma Project, which is an effort to raise the expectations and achievement of high school students. The state will require incoming freshmen in the 2007-08 school year to complete the Core 40 curriculum requirements in order to earn their high school diploma, with an opt-out provision. The state also has made the Core 40 a minimum requirement for admission to the state's four-year colleges and universities, starting in 2011.

The policy brief makes the following recommendations:

  • All high school students should have the option to take -- and should be encouraged to take through their senior year -- high-level mathematics, English and science courses to prepare them for the rigors of college or the workforce.
  • Access to AP and dual-credit courses should be increased for minority groups and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Curricular alignment between K-12 and higher education is needed.
  • Statewide tests given to students in high school should be used for college admissions or placement purposes.
  • High schools should be held accountable for preparing high school graduates to be "work-ready" or "college-ready."
  • The negative consequences of shifting remedial education from four-year to two-year institutions should be examined and addressed.

CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to

Spradlin can be reached at 812-856-4781 and