Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 2, 2012

Another option

Adult education may help some avoid remedial classes

The Independent

ASHLAND — For students whose low scores of the ACT and other college entrance tests require them to pass remedial courses before they can take some courses that offer credit toward graduation,  Janie Kitchen, dean of academic affairs at Ashland Community and Technical College, has an excellent suggestion that would save them a great deal of money while still preparing them for the academic rigors of college: Adult education.

How? Well, colleges charge students the same tuition to take non-credit remedial classes as they do to take classes that count toward graduation. In contrast, there is no charge for the adult education programs offered through the state’s community and technical colleges. While adult education classes mostly prepare adults to take the GED to earn their high school equivalency degrees, the same program also can help high school graduates better prepare themselves for college work.  

Among other things, a new report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy on funding for higher education talks about how the need to take remedial courses increases both the amount of time and the cost it takes for students to earn a college degree. Because of that, many students become frustrated and only a small percentage of the students in the remedial classes ever earn a college degree. Many of them never even pass the remedial classes. At the same time, they incur thousands of dollars in debt taking non-credit classes that teach what they should have learned in high school.

No wonder they become discouraged.

ACTC has a three-week bridge course for high-school graduates who are on the cusp of college-ready scores, Kitchen said. ACTC also is combining some developmental courses to decrease the time and expense for students.

ACTC students who need a lot of academic help can learn some of the things they missed in high school through what is available for free in the adult education program instead of taking the costly remedial classes. They may have to take the ACT again, but if their higher scores eliminate the need for remedial classes, it is well worth the cost of the test.

Of course, the need to take remedial courses is the result of high schools failing to prepare students for succes not only in college but also in the workplace. As many as 40 percent of the graduates of Kentucky high schools need to take at least one remedial class in college. OUr hope is thattKentucky’s adoption of the more  demanding national core education standard will result in a dramative decline in the number of high school grads not redy for college, but that is likely to take a few years.

Because the state’s community and technical colleges have “open enrollment” that enables all graduates of Kentucky high schools to attend them, the number of students taking remedial classes is even higher at them. The community and technical colleges also enroll a lot of older students who have been out of high school for awhile and are likely to need to “brush up” in their academic skills and even gain some knowledge they have forgotten in the years since they have been in a classroom.

Most community college students are older adults with jobs and family responsibilities, many are low-income and a significant number are the first in their families to attend college, the KCEP report points out. They often have problems balancing these personal responsibilities. Also, because many lack high-school diplomas or have delayed college for work or family reasons, they find themselves forced into remedial courses.

Advisors should recommend to students who are not ready for college work — whether they are 18, 65 or somewhere in between — do some studying through the adult education programs. Just the amount of money a student can save by receiving free help through adult education makes it an excellent option for many students. Unfortunately, we think some community and technical colleges do not recommend adult education because the money they receive from remedial courses helps to balance their budgets at a time when state funding for higher education is extremely tight. However, the first obligation of all the schools is to do what they think is best for their students. For many students the adult education option may be best  option even if it hits the schools right in the pocketbook.