Administrators and teachers from colleges and universities around the state came to the two-day meeting, designed to boost graduation rates in the 25 schools in Georgia’s technical college system and the 35 in the university system.
Thousands upon thousands of students don’t continue in college because they don’t pass algebra. That’s crazy, said Uri Treisman, a professor of math and public affairs at the University of Texas in Austin. Most won’t need algebra in their future jobs, he said.
The structure of remedial courses doesn’t make sense, either, said Treisman and students.
Most remedial courses are like a continuation of high school — but high school in 1951, not today, he said. When students take a remedial course, they have to cover a certain amount of material in a certain amount of time, or start all over again in a new school term. But many become frustrated and just don’t return at all, he said.
“We’ve got to move past that,” he said.
Many students do need help to build up their skills, especially older students returning to college or vocational school, students said.
But remedial courses should be more targeted, several students said.
“As a non-traditional student, I feel I’ve come in at a disadvantage,” said Jazzmyn McKelvey-Hunter of Georgia Perimeter College. “Maybe we could get a diagnostic test requirement done so that maybe we could focus on where our deficiencies are.”
Older students often need help with technology such as computers as well as math or writing, said Sharon Yarbrough, a sophomore at Georgia Perimeter College.
“We want to succeed; we really do. Help remove those obstacles,” said Yarbrough.
Another student simply wanted to be able to get credit for work he’s done. Often, colleges won’t give students credit for courses completed at other colleges.
“I’ve lost several A’s because I’ve transferred from one school to another. That’s a disappointment,” said Dustin Ragus, a student at Georgia Highlands College.
State officials have already begun to take action on some problems identified by the students and the experts.
The state Board of Regents last week moved to give students like Ragus some help. The Regents voted to expand from 10 to 27 the number of basic college courses that automatically transfer from one college to another, no matter if the college is in the university system or the technical college system.
Other colleges are changing the way they teach remedial studies, for example, by identifying the specific areas in which students need to rebuild skills, said Dan Smith, the vice president for institutional effectiveness at Athens Technical College.