A majority of students with A and B grade point averages in high school still require developmental education at the community-college level, raising new questions about the skill level of incoming college students and the ways institutions measure their abilities. This is especially worrisome for students of color given that half of Hispanic college students and nearly a third of black college students start their higher-education paths at community colleges.
According to a new report that looked at a survey of 70,000 community-college students, 40 percent of students who said they averaged an A in high school reported that they needed a developmental course in at least one subject. Students with A- or B+ averages said they needed a brush-up course more than 50 percent of the time, and those with B averages required such a course nearly 60 percent of the time. Combined, these three levels of achievement accounted for 57 percent of the community-college students who were asked this question in the survey.
The report’s authors, who lead the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, note the disconnect between students’ beliefs about their ability to succeed at the community-college level and their actual academic outcomes. While most students believe they are on track to attain their academic goals, recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse shows that less than a third of community-college students earned a two-year degree after six years (and a tenth went on to earn a four-year degree). With an average age of 29, community-college students also tend to be older than the still-teenaged freshman shipping off to college.