Unprepared students can rest easy

By Vickie Snow

Students who fell behind in high school or community college can rest easy—higher education has the responsibility of offering remedial courses, according to a study by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

A recent IBHE Report on Undergraduate Education examines ways in which goals are being met and can be improved. One of the four topics is student preparation.

At the Board of Regents meeting last week, members of one of the advisory committees were worried about the fact that the IBHE places the duty in the lap of university officials.

The trend has been for community colleges to handle the job.

“Now it seems universities are charged with providing remedial education,” said J. Carroll Moody, executive secretary of NIU’s University Council.

Moody also is a Joint University Advisory Council member, made up of members from the three regency schools.

Pamela Ritch, JUAC member representing Illinois State University, said, “My concern is who else has an obligation to offer the courses?”

Although she doesn’t oppose the idea, she said some faculty think universities shouldn’t offer remedial courses at all.

High schools and community colleges should prepare students for college and provide them with the necessary study skills, Ritch said.

The IBHE report states “each college or university has an obligation to provide remedial course work to those students who are identified as needing it through the institution’s assessment process.”

While the IBHE requests universities increase their role in improving student preparation, the report states community colleges and high schools should not back out of the responsibility.

The IBHE recommends universities establish “strong partnerships with elementary and secondary schools, making sure that students know what course work they need in high school to succeed in college.”

The issue not only raises questions of responsibility, but also of money.

“As we get more and more students coming in (to colleges) needing remedial course work, where do we put the resources, and how can we give credit for the courses?” Ritch asked.

Students who take college remedial courses do not get credits needed to receive financial aid.

To offer remedial courses, college officials have to cut spending or get more resources, Ritch said.

“Money is not forthcoming from the legislature. The legislature has shirked its responsibility for higher education in the state,” Ritch said.

The Regents govern NIU, ISU in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.