Higher Education Policy Commission reports increase in student success rates following education reform

Higher Education Policy Commission

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – More Mountain State students are succeeding in college thanks, in part, to an overhaul in the way entry-level courses are taught. Earlier today during a meeting of the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), state officials announced that recent efforts to reform developmental, or “remedial,” education are helping more students pass first-year math and English courses.

Historically, one in four students at West Virginia’s public colleges and universities has been required to take developmental math or English classes because their high school grade point averages (GPAs) or entrance exam scores were below the threshold at which students are considered ready for college-level work. These courses, which typically do not count toward a degree, often lead to students’ dropping out of college.

“In the past, developmental education too often has led to a dead end for students,” Dr. Paul Hill, HEPC Chancellor, said. “It’s discouraging, because not only are they taking and paying for classes that don’t count toward their degrees, but they often are being asked to re-learn information at a snail’s pace. Our new model of administering remediation allows students to catch up quickly and maintain momentum toward earning a college diploma.”

Working closely with Complete College America, HEPC and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System (CTCS) have worked with the state’s public colleges and universities to redesign developmental education using a “co-requisite model.” The new format provides students who have low GPAs or test scores with extra help, such as required tutoring or extra lab classes, while simultaneously allowing them to complete college-level coursework that counts toward their degrees. West Virginia is one of just five states to implement the model across the entire public higher education system.

Data presented during the HEPC meeting showed that the redesign has resulted in a major boost for course completion rates. For example, at Fairmont State University, the number of students completing entry-level math jumped from 28.1 percent to 81.8 percent after the school switched to providing co-requisite courses. Similarly, pass rates in English at West Liberty University jumped from 46.4 percent to 90.7 percent. And institutions across West Virginia are seeing similarly impressive results.

“Ultimately, we expect this to have a major impact on college graduation rates,” Dr. Corley Dennison, HEPC’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, said. “Instead of completely re-teaching a subject to students who may only need a bit of extra help, we are able to enroll them in the credit-bearing class and then pinpoint areas in which their knowledge and skills are lacking. That saves our students time, money and unnecessary frustration — and reduces barriers that may have previously prevented them from earning a degree.”

Dr. Hill said the new model is also a more cost-efficient method of offering classes.

“Previously, our colleges and universities had to dedicate faculty, space and class time for an entire semester to conduct high-school-level courses in order to prepare students for college work,” Dr. Hill said. “Now we are integrating the developmental work into first-year college courses and utilizing existing campus services, such as tutoring and faculty office hours, to offer extra support for the students who need it.”

The CTCS was one of the first higher education systems in the nation to test the co-requisite model of developmental education. The model is now nationally recognized as a best practice in state higher education policy.


Media note: The presentation provided at the HEPC meeting is available here: https://www.wvhepc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/HEPC-Meeting-Agenda-6-23-2017-AMENDED.pdf#page=133

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