Not ready for college: Report says 51 percent in NM take remedial classes


NOT SO FAST: A study shows that 51 percent of high school students in New Mexico need to take remedial classes at the state’s colleges and universities,

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE, N.M. – The numbers aren’t good but, then again, they haven’t been good for years.

A college readiness study released earlier this week shows a majority of New Mexico students entering colleges in the state are not, in fact, ready to tackle college-level classes without remedial work.

The 48-page report produced by the Legislative Finance Committee shows 51 percent of students coming from the state’s public schools needed to go take remedial classes — also known as developmental courses — once they entered New Mexico’s public colleges and universities.

The study did not account for students who attended colleges and universities outside of New Mexico.

The problem is not a new one. In the most recent 11 years of data, the percentage of students who need to take developmental courses in their freshman year remained steady — between 47 and 53 percent.

The area of study in which students took the most remediation classes? Math. Here’s the breakdown by subject:

The study had other alarming findings.

For example, 77 percent of students who completed Algebra II still needed to take remedial math classes in their first year of college, and 42 percent of those who completed trigonometry in high school needed remedial work:

college math readiness2

Students who need remedial work have a strikingly lower chance of ever earning a bachelor’s degree or even a higher education certificate.

Students in the study who did not need remedial classes had a 77 percent chance of earning a degree within six years. But if they need to take just one developmental course, the number plummeted to 17 percent.

A mere 5 percent taking two remedial classes managed to graduate in six years, just 1 percent graduated if they took three remedial classes and, if they needed four or more, no students graduated.

impact of remedial courses2

All told, New Mexico spent $22 million in 2013 on remedial courses.

“There is a large portion of students who are not ready for college,” New Mexico Higher Education Department Secretary José Z. Garcia told New Mexico Watchdog. “It’s a multi-layered problem that includes everything from early preparation to alignment of high school courses work with college course work to college achievement gaps. There’s a lot of moving parts.”

“We’re still not reaching the levels of instruction that students need,” said state Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, a retired teacher.

For LFC member and state Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, the report underscores the need to improve educational reform efforts, in which New Mexico has consistently finished near the bottom in national rankings.

“We’re certain of one thing,” Larrañaga said. “What we’re doing now is not adequate. When it comes to moving the needle in the right direction, we’re not doing it with the existing system.”

Among the recommendations made by the authors of the study: Better coordination between the state’s high schools and colleges in determining which students are prepared for college-level work and having the Public Education Department revise its A-through-F grading system to include college readiness.

Click here to read the entire study.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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