Referral, Enrollment, and Completion in Developmental Education Sequences in Community Colleges

Referral, Enrollment, and Completion in Developmental Education Sequences in Community Colleges (Working Paper No. 15) By: Thomas Bailey, Dong Wook Jeong & Sung-Woo Cho — December 2008. New York: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. To download the entire report, click on the following link,

After being assessed, many students entering community colleges are referred to one or more levels of developmental education. While the need to assist students with weak academic skills is well known, little research has examined student progression through multiple levels of developmental education and into entry-level college courses. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the patterns and determinants of student progression through sequences of developmental education starting from initial referral. We rely primarily on a micro-level longitudinal dataset that includes detailed information about student progression through developmental education. This dataset was collected as part of the national community college initiative Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count. The dataset has many advantages, but it is not nationally representative; therefore, we check our results against a national dataset--the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988. Our results indicate that only 3 to 4 out of 10 students who are referred to remediation actually complete the entire sequence to which they are referred. Most students exit in the beginning of their developmental sequence--almost half fail to complete the first course in their sequence. The results also show that more students exit their developmental sequences because they did not enroll in the first or a subsequent course than because they failed a course in which they were enrolled. We also show that men, older students, Black students, part-time students, and students in vocational programs are less likely to progress through their full remedial sequences. Finally, we provide weaker evidence that some institutional characteristics are related to a lower probability of completion of developmental education.