Lieutenant Gov. Joe Garcia released Colorado's annual Remedial Report in April. And the results are a bit different this time around.
Formerly, he says, only data from students who tested into remedial-level coursework was counted. This year, an additional 2,009 in-state students who enrolled in remedial coursework on their own were added to the report.
"Now we're able to actually track student data back to the high school," says Garcia, also the executive director of the state's Department of Higher Education. "Not just whether they enrolled in college, and what courses they took."
So what's been learned? Well, 40 percent of Colorado students entering higher education aren't ready for it. And many times, students in remedial courses aren't gaining much ground toward a degree, as many courses at this level don't grant college credits.
In the report, the CDHE clearly states that its goal is to provide 66 percent of residents ages 25 to 34 with the tools necessary to hold "high-quality, postsecondary credentials." This is a good number, as, according to Garcia, 60 percent of the jobs created in Colorado in the next 10 years will require a college degree.
The lieutenant governor believes this can be done, and he sees several different ways of implementation. Shorter graduation times is one he's focused on in the past. And now, depending on the institution, coursework is being considered differently, which may help with remediation.
Some students are allowed self-paced courses. Other students can take a combined two-or-three-part course in just one semester. Still others are taking college-level coursework with a significant amount of supplemental help to ensure that they not only keep their heads above water, but actually learn, and grow as students.
The most proven method, however, according to Garcia, is earlier preparation. He references his time leading Colorado State University-Pueblo and Pikes Peak Community College, when he would make a point to leave campus to meet with junior high and high schools about what specific needs weren't being met prior to students' enrollment. He says bluntly, "This is one of the things that higher education needs to be doing."
Luckily, many people are addressing these problems in Colorado. Some issues, however, are big enough to require the largest of team efforts.
Among these larger issues are alarmingly higher rates of remediation among African-American students (90 percent at two-year institutions) and Hispanic students (78 percent at two-year institutions). Garcia says we see this "racial, ethnic, and income achievement gap" all over the country, and that some Colorado charter and traditional schools have shown success in reducing it by merely bringing a different approach to instruction. It's a job that needs to start early.
"A lot of this gap," he says, "exists before kids ever even arrive in preschool."