The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation renewed its commitment to improving college graduation rates for low-income and minority students by giving $16.5 million in grant money to expand remedial education programs at the community-college level.
Fifteen community colleges and five states with model remedial education programs received the grants last week. The model programs share qualities such as accelerating the speed at which students complete remedial courses, providing students one-on-one support with class work and homework, and offering courses with open entry and exit dates so that students who miss registration deadlines can still enroll, says Hilary Pennington, director of special initiatives in the Gates Foundation's United States program. She added that the foundation hopes the grant recipients can act as replicable models to other community colleges and states looking to improve their remedial education offerings.
The need for strong remedial education programs is vast, according to a recently released report by Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit research and advocacy agency. The report indicates that about 60 percent of students enrolling in community colleges across the nation take remedial education classes to shore up their mastery of basic academic skills. This statistic tops 90 percent for low-income and minority students at some community colleges, yet the number of students moving from remedial education classes to college-level courses can drop as low as 15 percent, according to the Gates Foundation.
Pennington says the focus of the foundation's postsecondary success strategy is helping more students not only go to college but go through college and that remedial education classes at open-access community colleges are needed to achieve that goal.
This is the first in a series of grants the Gates Foundation plans to award over the next few years to continue funding efforts to "crack the code of accelerating academic catch-up," Pennington says.
The Lumina and Ford foundations have also invested in remedial education at the community-college level.