Student Financial Aid:

Federal Aid Awarded to Students Taking Remedial Courses

HEHS-97-142: Published: Aug 21, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 21, 1997.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined remedial education among college freshman and sophomore (underclassmen) financial aid recipients for the fall 1995 term, focusing on the share of financial aid dollars: (1) awarded to underclassmen who enrolled in remedial courses; and (2) used by underclassmen to pay for remedial classes. GAO also examined why and how colleges provide remedial education and the demographic profiles of students who take such courses.

GAO noted that: (1) in the 430 schools that responded to GAO's survey, underclassmen who enrolled in remedial education courses received a relatively small portion of federal student aid dollars; (2) of all financial aid awarded to underclassmen at these schools, approximately 13 percent went to freshmen and sophomores who enrolled in at least one remedial course; (3) only 6 percent of freshmen and sophomores at these schools both received financial aid and enrolled in remedial courses; (4) GAO estimated that no more than 4 percent of the financial aid granted to freshmen and sophomores paid for remedial courses; (5) GAO's nine case study schools provided remedial courses to raise their students' proficiency in reading, writing, and math skills to levels typically attained in high school; (6) representatives from each 2-year school viewed remedial education as an integral part of their institution's purpose, with two of three citing such coursework in their mission statements; (7) spokesmen for the 4-year schools saw these programs as consistent with their institutions' commitment to meeting students' educational needs; (8) most schools guided students who needed remedial education through formal programs; (9) with one exception, the case study schools used mandatory placement tests to assign students to courses commensurate with their skill level before enrollment; (10) all the 4-year public schools required students to enroll in remedial courses if placement test scores indicated the need; (11) the schools varied according to limits placed on and the type of credit offered for remedial courses; (12) some schools required students to complete remedial coursework by the end of their first term; others allowed students to take such courses through graduation, and four schools allowed students to use these courses as electives; (13) freshmen and racial minorities constituted a higher share of remedial course enrollments compared with their campuswide enrollments; (14) at three 4-year schools, freshmen were overrepresented in remedial courses; and (15) at five schools, racial minorities typically enrolled in remedial courses at twice the proportion of their campuswide enrollments.

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