Lawmakers on a state education panel disagreed Tuesday how to support the state’s high school students who take remedial courses.
About 56 percent of Wyoming community college students who began college in fall 2006 were required to enroll in remedial courses, according to data prepared by the Wyoming Community College Commission. Most students — 33 percent — enrolled in math courses, according to the report presented to the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee in Casper on Tuesday.
About 23 percent of Wyoming high school students entering the University of Wyoming this fall were eligible for remedial math courses. (UW doesn’t test for remedial English needs.) But 90 percent of Wyoming high school students entering UW this fall completed the Hathaway Success Curriculum.
The numbers don’t match up, and lawmakers were unsure where to place the blame. UW officials have proposed raising guaranteed admission requirements while admitting students below the standards and requiring extra support.
Officials also plan to pull the transcripts of students eligible for remedial classes to learn more about their high school education, said Andy Hansen, associate provost at UW.
“We’re looking for a story — is there a story that will tell us why they’re specifically in that class,” Hansen told lawmakers.
Lower-achieving students require more resources to succeed than those who earn a top-level Hathaway Scholarship, said Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Casper.
“This sounds like health insurance, where the guys that don’t pay get paid for by the guys who do pay,” Jennings said.
The university is not requesting more money for support programs but plans to reallocate its funds toward those programs, said Mike Massie, special assistant to the UW president and a former legislator.
“These are adults — they’re no longer K-12 students,” Massie said. “They have choices in front of them and you see those choices often in retention and graduation rate.”
Hathaway students must enroll in 12 credit hours to maintain their scholarship. Remedial courses don’t count in the total, so students on Hathaway Scholarships enrolled in remedial courses take more classes than others.
Students most at risk of not succeeding are being asked to take more hours, said Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie. Connolly, a UW professor, suggested remedial course hours be included in eligibility for Hathaway Scholarships and students would still be required to earn all college-level credits for graduation.
“It’s a way to keep our most vulnerable kids in school if our goal is to give them opportunities to succeed,” Connolly said.
Connolly said students would have to decide whether to finish school once their Hathaway Scholarship runs out, but they would be more likely to finish if they stay through the second year. About 6.4 percent of freshmen in 2009-10 lost their scholarships because they didn’t take enough credit hours, according to data from the Wyoming Department of Education. Another 5 percent didn’t meet the GPA requirement.
Rep. Mike Madden, R-Buffalo, said the scholarship shouldn’t cover remedial courses. He suggested awarding a smaller scholarship amount proportional to the qualifying hours taken.
Connolly’s proposal failed to gain committee support, but she hopes the topic resurfaces before the Legislature meets in February.