Referral, Enrollment, and Completion in Developmental Education Sequences in Community Colleges
After being assessed, many students entering community colleges are referred to one or more levels of developmental education. While the need to assist students with weak academic skills is well known, little research has examined student progression through multiple levels of developmental education and into entry-level college courses. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the patterns and determinants of student progression through sequences of developmental education starting from initial referral. We rely primarily on a micro-level longitudinal dataset that includes detailed information about student progression through developmental education. This dataset was collected as part of the national community college initiative Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count. The dataset has many advantages, but it is not nationally representative; therefore, we check our results against a national dataset—the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988. Our results indicate that fewer than one half of the students who are referred to remediation actually complete the entire sequence to which they are referred. About 30 percent of students referred to developmental education do not enroll in any remedial course, and only about 60 percent of referred students actually enroll in the remedial course to which they were referred. The results also show that more students exit their developmental sequences because they did not enroll in the first or a subsequent course than because they failed or withdrew from a course in which they were enrolled. We also show that men, older students, African American students, part-time students, and students in vocational programs are less likely to progress through their full remedial sequences.
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