The costs of remedial education are high for students and taxpayers. The Commission estimates tuition and government loans spent on remedial courses at the state’s community colleges exceed $35 million a year in Indiana alone. Complete College America, a non-profit advocacy organization, estimates states and students across the nation spend more than $3 billion on remedial courses each year.
Lawmakers, advocates and officials are pursuing various ways to better prepare students for college-level studies, but solutions are elusive. In 2013, for example, the state General Assembly passed a law that would require high schools to test every 11th-grader’s math skills and provide help for those not ready for college. That initiative has stalled amid the ongoing political disputes between the state’s elected schools chief, Democrat Glenda Ritz, and the state Board of Education, whose members are appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence.
In the meantime, people, including Berkopes and a team of educators at the IUPUI math center, assure incoming college freshmen. “I tell students all the time, ‘Math is hard. The best minds in the world couldn’t get this a few hundred years ago, and now we expect third-graders to be learning this,’” said Berkopes.
He and others at the math center are dedicated to changing the way the subject is taught.
“Our traditional model for math education needs to change,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense for the demands of today. We’re sending more kids to college than ever before, and too many of them just aren’t ready.”
Thinking not memorizing
That equation is bad news for many students. An exhaustive study by Complete College America found only one in four who take remedial classes will eventually earn a degree. Many drop out, departing college only with the burden of a student loan.