Student Financial AidFederal Aid Awarded to Students Taking Remedial Courses Gao ID: HEHS-97-142 August 21, 1997
Some Members of Congress disapprove of allowing college students to use federal student financial aid to pay for remedial education--classes designed to raise students' proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics. These policymakers often believe that a large portion of financial aid is awarded to students enrolled in remedial education courses and that this aid finances remedial education courses. GAO surveyed 430 colleges offering remedial instruction and found that underclassmen who enrolled in these courses received a relatively small portion of financial aid dollars. Of all financial aid awarded to underclassmen at these schools, about 13 percent went to freshmen and sophomores enrolled in at least one remedial class. In addition, GAO calculated that no more than four percent of the financial aid granted to underclassmen could have paid for remedial classes. Consequently, it is unclear whether eliminating financial aid associated with remedial education would offer meaningful opportunities to reprogram federal student financial aid money.
GAO noted that: (1) in the 430 schools that responded to GAO's survey, underclassmen who enrolled in remedial education courses received a relatively small portion of federal student aid dollars; (2) of all financial aid awarded to underclassmen at these schools, approximately 13 percent went to freshmen and sophomores who enrolled in at least one remedial course; (3) only 6 percent of freshmen and sophomores at these schools both received financial aid and enrolled in remedial courses; (4) GAO estimated that no more than 4 percent of the financial aid granted to freshmen and sophomores paid for remedial courses; (5) GAO's nine case study schools provided remedial courses to raise their students' proficiency in reading, writing, and math skills to levels typically attained in high school; (6) representatives from each 2-year school viewed remedial education as an integral part of their institution's purpose, with two of three citing such coursework in their mission statements; (7) spokesmen for the 4-year schools saw these programs as consistent with their institutions' commitment to meeting students' educational needs; (8) most schools guided students who needed remedial education through formal programs; (9) with one exception, the case study schools used mandatory placement tests to assign students to courses commensurate with their skill level before enrollment; (10) all the 4-year public schools required students to enroll in remedial courses if placement test scores indicated the need; (11) the schools varied according to limits placed on and the type of credit offered for remedial courses; (12) some schools required students to complete remedial coursework by the end of their first term; others allowed students to take such courses through graduation, and four schools allowed students to use these courses as electives; (13) freshmen and racial minorities constituted a higher share of remedial course enrollments compared with their campuswide enrollments; (14) at three 4-year schools, freshmen were overrepresented in remedial courses; and (15) at five schools, racial minorities typically enrolled in remedial courses at twice the proportion of their campuswide enrollments.