Incomplete Analysis of Corequisite Model of Remediation

Examining only pass rates of students who enroll in college-level course ignores students who fail at any point during long sequences of remediation.

April 28, 2022

To the Editor,

The recent opinion piece "Remediation is Not the Enemy" makes the argument that reforming traditional remediation through adopting a corequisite model is depriving vulnerable students of important learning opportunities. The article cites research that shows many more students pass college-level courses when placed directly into them while co-enrolled in corequisite support classes than students who first must pass semesters of remedial coursework. 

But the author uses the same data to argue that the same method also results in a higher percentage of students failing those college-level courses. Interpreting the data in this way requires us to make false equivalencies, because it does not account for the students who otherwise never would have made it to the college-level courses in the first place. By only examining pass rates of students who enroll in the college-level course, this analysis ignores students who fail at any point during the long sequences of remediation or stop out between semesters—and never make it to college-level courses. Indeed, a large number of students are lost to attrition throughout the traditional prerequisite remediation process. 

With the corequisite model, students are enrolled directly into the college-level courses and corequisite support classes at the same time, eliminating this semester-to-semester attrition. Colleges and universities that adopt the model are seeing impressive gains in their work to close institutional performance gaps. When the University System of Georgia implemented corequisite support at their more than two dozen colleges and universities, students passed their college-level English courses at 26 percentage points higher than those enrolled in traditional pre-requisite remediation. In math, the pass rate increased by 47 percentage points. Latinx, Black, Pell-eligible, and First-generation students are all now passing their college-level English and math courses near, at, or above the overall average for the system. 

There is, of course, much more work to be done. Institutions are still losing far too many students. Interventions like corequisite support will only achieve their true potential when colleges and universities start to address the social determinants of student success—and inequality—in higher education. Corequisite support is just one approach among a wide variety of impactful strategies institutions should implement. It must be coupled with other forms of resources and programs, such as proactive advising, 360-degree coaching, and access to basic needs support. 

Over the past decade, colleges and universities have made hard-fought progress in eliminating gaps in student achievement based on race/ethnicity, gender, and income. Ultimately, this is not about assigning blame or responsibility on a single discipline or function of the institution. It's about administrators, educators, and policymakers coming together to evaluate academic policies and practices—and asking direct, sometimes difficult, questions about their impact on student outcomes. We have a choice: we can continue our legacy approach to prerequisite remedial education and consign students with the fewest resources to a substandard educational experience. Or we can challenge ourselves to provide students and educators with more.

--Brandon Protas
Strategy Director
Complete College America

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