- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The percentage of students who are unprepared for college-level course work when they enter public colleges and universities in Arkansas has declined.

A report released by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education indicates that the remediation rate has fallen from 41.4 percent of 22,024 students in 2014 to 39.7 percent of 22,138 students in 2015.

Of the state’s four-year universities, Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway had lower percentages of students assigned to remedial classes, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Saturday (https://bit.ly/23A8Zsn ).

The state’s community colleges showed similar downward trends with 65.4 percent of 6,983 students needing remedial classes. Two-year colleges usually have higher remediation rates because they have lower admission standards.

The report recorded the number of first-time students who scored below 19 in math, English or reading on the ACT college-admissions exam and were required by state law to complete noncredit, remedial course work before taking traditional classes. Higher education officials and policymakers have been studying the numbers, looking for new ways to retool the remedial classes that historically have not been successful in helping students toward graduation.

The remediation rate is an indicator of the graduation rate: Half of the students who need remediation won’t pass on the first try and, if they do, the success rates after that are typically low. The state, which has ranked at or near the bottom in the number of residents graduating in six years, is working to help more students graduate and get into the workforce.

“We are definitely moving in the right direction,” Higher Education Department Director Brett Powell said. “There’s two ways that remediation enrollment declines: One is improvement in college readiness of students, and the second is the way we enroll students.”

Average ACT scores of the latest group increased slightly from last year, showing small improvements in college readiness, he said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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