Institutional responses to reduce inequalities in college outcomes: Remedial and developmental courses in Higher Education
Academic preparation is an important predictor of success in college. Numerous studies link the types of courses students take in high school to their performance in higher education. For example, Adelman (1999) provides a detailed study of college access and degree completion among a cohort of students who were in the tenth grade in 1980. He finds that a student’s academic background, defined by measures of academic content and performance in secondary school such as high school curriculum intensity, class rank and GPA, are the most critical factors in determining college enrollment and success. However, the preparation students have when entering college often is below what is required and varies greatly by background. Adelman finds that students differ significantly in the types of courses they take and how well they perform by background. In a recent update, Adelman (2006) finds curriculum to be even more compelling in terms of its role in degree completion. In another study, Greene and Foster (2003) found that only 32 percent of students leave high school at least minimally prepared for college. The proportion is much smaller for Black and Hispanic students (20 and 16 percent, respectively). There are also significant gaps in test scores by race and income (Jencks and Phillips, 1998). Therefore, while academic preparation is a problem for many students entering college, it is a problem that especially affects low-income and minority students.