Every August, college freshmen arrive on campus feeling nervous about finding their way in a sea of strangers. Add on the stress of financing a degree, and the first semester of college is no walk in the park. Imagine being told amidst this transition, that you are required to take a remedial course. The course costs money, and doesn’t count toward your degree. This is reality for about 42 percent of Delaware public high school graduates attending a Delaware public college or university, according to the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE). Discouraged and overwhelmed by the cost and additional coursework, students who require remediation are less likely to successfully complete a degree.
This week, Governor Markell announced a $250,000 grant from USA Funds that could help address this issue while students are still in high school. The grant will bring English and vocational teachers together with college faculty to develop a Foundations of College English course. Once the course is established, eleventh grade students who do not meet the PSAT or SAT benchmark for college readiness in ELA will be eligible to take the course, and upon completion become eligible to take college-level coursework in their senior year. Ultimately, the governor and DDOE are hopeful this program will increase students’ college readiness in ELA by the end of 11th grade and expand access to college-level coursework for high schoolers. A similar program, the Foundations of College Math course, was developed for math in 2014.
“Students who require remediation are delayed in earning industry credentials and a two or four-year degree that would prepare them for employment,” said Matt Burrows, superintendent of the Appoquinimink School District. Existing programs in Delaware high schools allow students to get a jumpstart on earning the credentials and education needed to be successful in a career. This includes over 5,000 participants in state-model programs of study launched last year through the Delaware Pathways initiative. For that reason, the Foundations of College English course will begin as a pilot in select high schools for students enrolled in the Allied Health pathway program. This pilot will serve as a model for statewide expansion.
At the announcement, USA Funds president Bill Hansen talked about the importance of building on the great work already underway to improve student success across the country. Delaware is continuing to develop ways to prepare our students for success after high school. Along with Delaware Pathways, the state has extended opportunities for all students to take the PSAT and SAT for free during the school day, expanded in-school supports for students in filling out college applications and the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and increased opportunities for students to gain college credit through AP and dual enrollment courses. The grant will help grow these successes and truly make Delaware a model for the nation.
Alyssa McGraw contributed to this blog.