IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Development, Discouragement, or Diversion? New Evidence on the Effects of College Remediation


  • Judith Scott-Clayton
  • Olga Rodriguez


Half of all college students take at least one remedial course as part of their postsecondary experience, despite mixed evidence on the effectiveness of this intervention. Using a regression-discontinuity design with data from a large urban community college system, we extend the research on remediation in three ways. First, we articulate three alternative models of remediation to help guide interpretation of sometimes conflicting results in the literature. Second, in addition to credits and degree completion we examine several under-explored outcomes, including the initial decision to enroll, grades in subsequent college courses, and post-treatment proficiency test scores. Finally, we exploit rich high school background data to examine heterogeneity in the impact of remedial assignment by predicted academic risk. We find that remediation does little to develop students' skills. But we also find relatively little evidence that it discourages either initial enrollment or persistence, except for a subgroup we identify as potentially mis-assigned to remediation. Instead, the primary effect of remediation appears to be diversionary: students simply take remedial courses instead of college-level courses. These diversionary effects are largest for the lowest-risk students. Implications for remediation policy are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Judith Scott-Clayton & Olga Rodriguez, 2012. "Development, Discouragement, or Diversion? New Evidence on the Effects of College Remediation," NBER Working Papers 18328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18328
    Note: ED

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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).
    2. Scott E. Carrell & Richard L. Fullerton & James E. West, 2009. "Does Your Cohort Matter? Measuring Peer Effects in College Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(3), pages 439-464, July.
    3. Juan Carlos Calcagno & Bridget Terry Long, 2008. "The Impact of Postsecondary Remediation Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach: Addressing Endogenous Sorting and Noncompliance," NBER Working Papers 14194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Judith Scott-Clayton & Peter M. Crosta & Clive R. Belfield, 2012. "Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation," NBER Working Papers 18457, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18328. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.