The number of first-year students at Arkansas public colleges and universities deemed unready for coursework fell in fall 2012, according to a report released by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
These statistics, which are collectively known as remediation rates, concern first-time students who scored below 19 in one or more areas of the ACT admissions test and are required to pass remedial courses before continuing on to core and major-related programs.
Approximately 40 percent of UALR first-time students enrolled in fall 2012 were required to take non-credit courses. Mathematics, which competed with reading and English scores, saw the highest rates with 252 of 833 students adding remedial coursework to their existing degree plans.
State statistics indicate a rate of 47.8 percent, a decrease from fall 2011 that reflects a steady decline during the last five years. This number also beat the state’s all-time low of 48.5 percent, which was recorded in 1994.
The state’s remediation rate, which is among the highest in the country, can be accounted for by the number of Arkansas institutions with open-admissions policies. Many small campuses admit students regardless of grade-point averages or test scores. But Calvin Johnson, who serves as interim chancellor at the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff, said these policies are beneficial to first-generation and low-income students.
“It’s a challenge for us,” Johnson said in a story published by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “But that’s our mission, and we feel good when we are able to get those students on track.”
But other schools — notably UALR and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro — have made a point to increase admissions standards for prospective students with lower-than-average composite scores, class rank and high school grade-point averages. As a result, several students the school may have admitted in previous years have been rejected and referred to two-year institutions smaller in size and more basic in curriculum.
Changes have also been made to the method with which the statistics are calculated. The Arkansas Department of Higher Education formerly included any and all first-year students attending public universities. But Act 970, a piece of educational legislation passed in 2009, now requires remediation rates to report students who graduated high school two years prior to entering college. These statistics do not include transfer or nontraditional students.