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Addressing the Needs of Under-Prepared Students in Higher Education: Does College Remediation Work?

  • Eric P. Bettinger
  • Bridget Terry Long

Each year, thousands of students graduate high school academically unprepared for college. As a result, approximately one-third of entering postsecondary students require remedial or developmental work before entering college-level courses. However, little is known about the causal impact of remediation on student outcomes. At an annual cost of over $1 billion at public colleges alone, there is a growing debate about its effectiveness. Who should be placed in remediation, and how does it affect their educational progress? This project addresses these critical questions by examining the effects of math and English remediation using a unique dataset of approximately 28,000 students. To account for selection biases, the paper uses variation in remedial placement policies across institutions and the importance of proximity in college choice. The results suggest that students in remediation are more likely to persist in college in comparison to students with similar test scores and backgrounds who were not required to take the courses. They are also more likely to transfer to a higher-level college and to complete a bachelor's degree.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11325.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11325.

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Date of creation: May 2005
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Publication status: published as Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2009. "Addressing the Needs of Underprepared Students in Higher Education: Does College Remediation Work?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11325
Note: ED
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  1. David J. Zimmerman, 2003. "Peer Effects in Academic Outcomes: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(1), pages 9-23, February.
  2. David Card, 1993. "Using Geographic Variation in College Proximity to Estimate the Return to Schooling," NBER Working Papers 4483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-60, September.
  4. Bridget Terry Long, 2004. "Does the Format of a Financial Aid Program Matter? The Effect of State In-Kind Tuition Subsidies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(3), pages 767-782, August.
  5. Thomas J. Kane, 2003. "A Quasi-Experimental Estimate of the Impact of Financial Aid on College-Going," NBER Working Papers 9703, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Christopher Avery & Thomas J. Kane, 2004. "Student Perceptions of College Opportunities. The Boston COACH Program," NBER Chapters, in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 355-394 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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