The Relationship between Remediation and Degree Completion for Engineering and Technology Students

The Relationship between Remediation and Degree Completion for Engineering and Technology Students

Sally A. Lesik (Central Connecticut State University, USA) and Robin S. Kalder (Central Connecticut State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijqaete.2011070102
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This study investigates whether students who initially began college as engineering or technology majors and who were required to participate in remedial mathematics and/or remedial English programs, were less likely to graduate with their bachelor’s degree in their fourth through seventh years, as compared to engineering and technology majors who were not required to participate in a remedial mathematics and/or remedial English programs. By using discrete-time survival analysis, findings suggest that remediation status does not appear to impact the time it takes to complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in engineering or technology.
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Since the 1980’s, returns on the cost of a postsecondary education have increased, thus causing a substantial growth in the number of high school graduates who attend four-year universities (Bound, Lovenheim, & Turner, 2007; Spellings, 2006; Turner, 2004). Concurrently, the average time needed to complete a Bachelor’s degree has noticeably increased (Bound et al., 2007; Turner, 2004). Although there may be a number of mitigating factors that cause this result, perhaps the most frequently cited reason is that recent high school graduates tend to be less prepared for the academic rigors of a four-year university than students of the past decades (Bound et al., 2007; Greene & Foster, 2003; Turner, 2004).

This phenomenon is occurring in large numbers in the United States, and although occurring less frequently, it is a growing problem in Europe as well (Rienties, 2008; Rienties, Tempelaar, Dijkstra, Rehm, & Gijselaers, 2008). In the United States, remedial programs are common in community colleges as well as four-year colleges and universities, and are a result of post-secondary schools’ desire to attract students from low socio-economic status (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006; Brants & Struyven, 2009; Rienties, 2008). In Europe, the need is growing due to the increasing numbers of students completing their secondary education in one country and going on with their post-secondary education in another country, causing increased heterogeneity in these institutes of higher learning (Rienties, 2008; Rienties et al., 2008; Van der Wende, 2003).

According to the Spellings Commission report (2006), a “troubling number” of incoming college students “waste time mastering English and math skills that they should have learned in high school.” This apparent lack of skills in English and mathematics is often indicated in the United States by low scores on standardized tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), and by students’ poor performance on placement examinations. Although most colleges and universities require that incoming students take placement examinations in order to demonstrate their proficiency in mathematics and English, many students do not do well on these assessments (Bettinger & Long, 2006; National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). The result of poor performances on such standardized measures often leads to the requirement that these students enroll in remedial mathematics and/or English courses for which they do not receive credit towards graduation. Having to participate in such courses restricts their ability to enroll in college-level courses that are required for graduation (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). Since many programs require courses that have mathematics and/or English skills courses as prerequisites, participating in such courses will likely delay the students’ entry into the required introductory courses for their programs (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003), and subsequently delays them in earning their college degree (Bettinger & Long, 2006).

Remediation at the college level in the United States is widespread, with recent research indicating that at least 40% of all entering freshman are required to participate in at least one remedial course (Attewell et al., 2006). The National Center for Education Statistics (2003) reports that in the fall of 2000, 28% of students entering postsecondary education were enrolled in one or more remedial classes in reading, writing and/or mathematics (Parsad, Lewis, & Greene, 2003). The percentage of students who were enrolled in remedial mathematics was largest at 22%, with only 14% enrolled in writing and 11% enrolled in reading classes. Approximately 60% of institutions that offered remedial classes reported that, on average, students spent less than one year in remediation (Parsad et al., 2003).

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