Connecticut college remedial courses may see reprieve

State colleges will be able to offer no-credit remedial courses for another year if the institutions can prove they aren’t ready to implement public act 12-40, according to a proposed redraft of the act obtained by the Register.

Signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2012, P.A. 12-40 requires state colleges to abandon lower-level, no-credit remedial courses and embed support into entry-level courses or a college-readiness program.

The redrafting of the act comes after several students, parents and educators testified against the act at a public hearing on Malloy’s proposed budget for education. Local educators feared the urgency of the act going into effect this year would result in a cohort of students receiving degrees this spring without access to college.

“It became clear that people were very confused about the bill and part of it was because of the way that it was drafted,” said state Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford.

About 10,000 incoming students in state colleges place into no-credit remedial courses each year, according to the state Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Under the act, colleges can offer four levels of support: transitional, one-semester intensive, college level with embedded support and college level.

The transitional level is a five-week, no-credit bearing “super-intensive strategy” to propel students at the lowest level into embedded and intensive courses, according to Board of Regents transfer and articulation policy program manager Aynsley Diamond.

Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, said the redraft is a “substantive change” because whereas the original act didn’t communicate the opportunity to repeat courses, this one does.

Originally, the act stated “…except such institution may offer a student a maximum of one semester of remedial support that is not embedded.”

The new language states that students can repeat the one intensive semester remedial course in accordance with the college’s repeat policy. Diamond said most ConnSCU schools allow a student to take a course three times.

Bye said the way the programs are set up, repeating courses probably won’t be necessary. The courses will be offered in modules, she said. If a student successfully completes two out of three modules, they don’t have to take the course again but will instead work on mastering the third module in workshops.

Cassano said the transitional programs will be free to students and won’t use Pell grants.

The redraft also includes a new section allowing the president of the Board of Regents to grant an institution delayed implementation:

“(f) The president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education shall have the authority to determine the status of a public institution for higher education’s readiness to implement subsections (b) through (d), inclusive, of this act. Such a determination shall be made based on the status of the development of appropriate programming at said institution. Should the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education determine said institution is not ready to implement said subsections, implementation shall be delayed until no later than the start of the fall semester of 2015. Such determination shall be provided in writing to the committee of the General Assembly having cognizance over matters of higher education.”

Bye said if a school can “prove” they’re not ready to implement the new programs, it’s possible they’ll be allowed to delay implantation of programming until fall 2015, but that won’t be easy to do.

All in all, Bye said the redraft doesn’t “substantively change anything, but it puts everything in the affirmative language.”

Colleges are “still delivering remedial education, but in a different form,” she said.

Cassano, who viewed the changes as more substantive, said he expects with the redraft there will be better communication with community colleges about how the process works and what’s available. He said the initial distribution of information was done “very, very poorly” with colleges reporting different feedback on what they were told.

“I think you’re going to see a much better organized system, clear communication among the colleges and ongoing evaluations,” he said.

Cassano said the redraft was in reaction to a combination of factors, including testimony from students and single mothers and information from the Black and Hispanic Caucus.

It’s a “combination” of things, he said, including “the failure of the first one; it just wasn’t what we needed.”

Further information about the status of the act will not be available until the joint favorable report deadline on April 3.

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