Helping Remedial College Students Succeed

The most difficult part of college for many under-privileged students is often the very beginning. Students who do not do well enough on standardized testing frequently find themselves facing required remedial coursework before they will even be permitted the opportunity to study full time. Typically, these types of courses cause students to fail before they have even had a chance to ever truly begin. An exciting new program being pioneered at City University of New York (CUNY) looks to change this, and help remedial students succeed.


CUNY’s program, called CUNY Start, addresses the remedial needs of incoming freshman behind in math, reading, and writing. Since many of these students initially fell behind in grade school, the old methods of teaching, like rote memorization or skill and drill, aren’t effective. Instead, CUNY’s program focuses on teaching students how to investigate problems and to think in a logical manner. This in turn makes students more successsful in their future college courses by giving them problem-solving skills that will help them address a host of subjects, instead of just re-training them in basic math or reading.


The CUNY Start program also incorporates many more hours of assistance instead of just one or two remedial courses, as well as counseling. These features make it unique compared to others at schools across the nation. The extensive nature of the CUNY program has been a key reason for its success. At-risk students are supported through the process of transitioning both to college and college-level coursework. This has led to significant gains in remedial students actually going forward with their education, leading to an increase in degree completion.


Other colleges have started to notice and emulate the success of the CUNY Start program. Researchers at Berkeley, Brown, and Stanford have found that CUNY does more for its students than other schools in terms of increasing student social mobility. Other colleges have decided to embrace this new method, hoping to replicate its success.


June 28, 2017

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