With Louisiana postsecondary campuses’ persistence and completion rates lagging substantially behind leading public institutions nationwide, the Louisiana Talent Imperative will embrace proven practices that assist students in navigating the challenges of postsecondary education, from paying for it to choosing the right path to meaningful work. While our public and private institutions serve 237,000 students, graduating 47,000 per year, more than 8,000 students leave college after their first year with some credit but no degree. Louisiana can retain and graduate this talent pool by identifying and overcoming the barriers that lead students to stop out of college and often not return. These improvements can yield a high return on effort and thus boost productivity. Two approaches in particular merit early attention and rapid implementation at scale: addressing academic deficiencies within credit-bearing courses and implementing Math Pathways.
Although Louisiana’s postsecondary leadership has made progress in providing tools to students to address academic deficiencies before leaving high school, many in Louisiana still require post-graduation remediation at a community college before becoming eligible to enroll in four-year colleges and universities. The need for remediation discourages many students, reduces access, drives up costs, and can be a barrier for adult students wanting to enroll in or return to college.
Institutions have been encouraged to implement remediation reforms, including mechanisms for students to receive supplemental instruction concurrently with credit-bearing courses. National and statewide studies, including those conducted by Community College Research Center (CCRC), Tennessee and Georgia, show that students succeed at a rate at least two times higher in co-requisite than traditional remedial courses; in Tennessee’s first year of full implementation of co-requisite math, only 11.5% of students completed traditional remedial courses, while 63.4% finished a co-requisite. The benefits of this increased success are numerous: rapid addressing of academic deficiencies, reduced time to credential, reduced cost to the student and the state, and establishment of a bridge, rather than a barrier, to college-level work. Implementing at scale these proven alternatives to traditional remediation would help Louisiana systemically to address academic preparation challenges while keeping costs low and students fully engaged in their educational progress.
Paired with reform in methods to address academic deficiencies is a growing focus on the Carnegie Foundation’s Math Pathways program, a proven, highly successful strategy to get students through a critical gateway course – college-level math – that is often a major barrier to higher education success. The Tennessee and Georgia studies show that an overwhelming majority of students enter college with academic deficiencies in math, and a significant share of them – as high as 80% – will never successfully complete college-level math and risk never completing a credential. By focusing on mathematics learning that is meaningful to students’ everyday lives, academic areas of study, and career paths, Math Pathways enables more students to meet college math requirements, acquire skills needed for both college and work, and persist to complete their credentials.