A new report out from DC-based think-tank, Education Reform Now, dug through 2011 federal data of college freshmen and found evidence that seems almost counterintuitive: nearly half of the first-year college students who took remedial coursework hailed from middle to upper-income families.
While this may come as a surprise to some, it did not to CPE.
If you recall, the first installment of our Path Least Taken series was descriptive in nature, illustrating the nationally-representative sample of non-college goers that a 2002 U.S. Department of Education study followed for a decade.
Our most intriguing finding was that just 12 percent of this group had not gone on to college by the end of the study, when the study participants would have been 26. While it was smaller than we anticipated, we were intent on learning more about these non-college goers, especially those that found success after high school graduation.
To begin with, we discovered that non-college goers were more apt to be male, were more ethnically and racially diverse, and were more likely to have parents whose highest level of education was high school than their college going peers.
In contrast, college goers tended to be female, have parents that possessed a degree and come from the upper end of the socioeconomic scale.
The fact that just a third of college goers come from lower income households— although it constitutes two-thirds of the non-college going population— is one of the reasons we were not surprised by the findings from Education Reform Now’s report.
In the Path Least Taken series, students from middle to upper income households were well-represented in the college going group, so it stands to reason that they would be duly represented among those who start their college career with remedial classes.
In total, families from all backgrounds shell out $1.5 billion a year to have students repeat coursework they should have mastered in high school.
Making sure educators and policymakers equip high school graduates with the knowledge and skills they need to compete and be successful, regardless of whether they enroll in college or enter the workforce, was one of the main aims of our original research. The collection of questions we pose to school leaders at the end of each and every study is designed to determine if we are doing just that.