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Postsecondary remedial education (also known as postsecondary remediation, developmental education, basic skills education, or preparatory education) is large and growing segment of higher education in the United States. It is composed primarily of sequences of increasingly advanced courses designed to bring underprepared students to the level of skill competency expected of new college freshmen. This might include courses in computer skills, essay writing, library use, remedial reading etc. Estimates suggest that as many as 41% of all new college freshmen enroll in remedial coursework during their postsecondary pursuits.

Postsecondary remediation is a controversial issue. As Bahr (Bahr 2008a, p. 420-421) explains, "On one hand, it fills an important niche in U.S. higher education by providing opportunities to rectify disparities generated in primary and secondary schooling, to develop the minimum skills deemed necessary for functional participation in the economy and the democracy, and to acquire the prerequisite competencies that are crucial for negotiating college-level coursework. On the other hand, critics argue that taxpayers should not be required to pay twice for the same educational opportunities, that remediation diminishes academic standards and devalues postsecondary credentials, and that the large number of underprepared students entering colleges and universities demoralizes faculty. Following from these critiques, some have argued for a major restructuring of remediation or even the elimination of remedial programs altogether."

See also


  • Attewell, P., Lavin, D., Domina, T., and Levey, T. (2006). New evidence on college remediation. Journal of Higher Education, 77, 886-924.
  • Bahr, P. R. (2007). Double jeopardy: Testing the effects of multiple basic skill deficiencies on successful remediation. Research in Higher Education, 48, 695-725.
  • Bahr, P. R. (2008a). Does mathematics remediation work?: A comparative analysis of academic attainment among community college students. Research in Higher Education, 49, 420-450.
  • Bahr, P. R. (2008b). Cooling Out in the community college: What is the effect of academic advising on students’ chances of success? Research in Higher Education, 49, ###-###.
  • Bettinger, E., & Long, B. T. (2005). Remediation at the community college: Student participation and outcomes. New Directions for Community Colleges, 129, 17-26.
  • Burley, H., Butner, B., & Cejda, B. (2001). Dropout and stopout patterns among developmental education students in Texas community colleges. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 25, 767-782.
  • Crews, D. M., & Aragon, S. R. (2004). Influence of a community college developmental education writing course on academic performance. Community College Review, 23, 1-18.
  • Deil-Amen, R., and Rosenbaum, J. E. (2002). The unintended consequences of stigma-free remediation. Sociology of Education, 75, 249-268.
  • Hadden, C. (2000). The ironies of mandatory placement. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 24, 823-838.
  • Hagedorn, L. S., Siadat, M. V., Fogel, S. F., Nora, A., and Pascarella, E. T. (1999). Success in college mathematics: Comparisons between remedial and nonremedial first-year college students. Research in Higher Education, 40, 261-284.
  • Hoyt, J. E. (1999). Remedial education and student attrition. Community College Review, 27, 51-73.
  • Illich, P. A., Hagan, C., & McCallister, L. (2004). Performance in college-level courses among students concurrently enrolled in remedial courses: Policy implications. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 28, 435-453.
  • Kozeracki, C. A. (2002). ERIC review: Issues in developmental education. Community College Review, 29, 83-101.
  • Kurzet, R. (1997). Quality versus quantity in the delivery of developmental programs for ESL students. New Directions for Community Colleges, 100, 53-62.
  • Levin, H. M., and Calcagno, J. C. (2008). Remediation in the community college: An evaluator’s perspective. Community College Review, 35, 181-207.
  • Mazzeo, C. (2002). Stakes for students: Agenda-setting and remedial education. Review of Higher Education, 26, 19-39.
  • McCusker, M. (1999). ERIC review: Effective elements of developmental reading and writing programs. Community College Review, 27, 93-105.
  • Merisotis, J. P., & Phipps, R. A. (2000). Remedial education in colleges and universities: What's really going on?. Review of Higher Education, 24, 67-85.
  • Oudenhoven, B. (2002). Remediation at the community college: Pressing issues, uncertain solutions. New Directions for Community Colleges, 117, 35-44.
  • Parsad, B., Lewis, L., and Greene, B. (2003). Remedial education at degree-granting postsecondary institutions in Fall 2000 (NCES 2004-010). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Perin, D. (2004). Remediation beyond developmental education: The use of learning assistance centers to increase academic preparedness in community colleges. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 28, 559-582.
  • Perin, D., Keselman, A., & Monopoli, M. (2003). The academic writing of community college remedial students: Text and learner variables. Higher Education, 45, 19-42.
  • Saxon, D. P., & Boylan, H. R. (2001). The cost of remedial education in higher education. Journal of Developmental Education, 25, 2-8.
  • Waycaster, P. (2001). Factors impacting success in community college developmental mathematics courses and subsequent courses. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 25, 403-416.
  • Weissman, J., Silk, E., and Bulakowski, C. (1997). Assessing developmental education policies. Research in Higher Education, 38, 187-200.
  • Worley, J. (2003). Developmental reading instruction, academic attainment and performance among underprepared college students. Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, 10, 127-136.
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