Annual Scope of Learning Assistance (Part One)

The following is an excerpt from my book, Learning Assistance at the Crossroads.  More information about obtaining a copy of the book is provided in the upper left-hand column.  It may already be in your school library.

It is difficult to estimate the total number of college students who use learn­ing assistance annually. Depending on the institution, learning assistance activ­ities may include enrolling in remedial or developmental credit-bearing courses as well as attending noncredit activities such as tutoring, using learning assis­tance center resources, or attending a study strategies workshop. Because this chapter focuses on contemporary uses of learning assistance, it emphasizes stu­dents who are academically underprepared in one or more academic content areas. This report, however, also includes case studies of learning assistance use by students who do not fit that profile. These students have used it to enrich their learning and support them with rigorous coursework in graduate and professional schools. These enrichment and noncredit learning assistance ser­vices expand the number of students participating beyond the one-third of all entering college students enrolling in a developmental course (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). Rather than counting the number of noncredit users of learning assistance services such as learning assistance cen­ters and tutoring, the national studies report the high percentage of institu­tions that offer these services (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). As described earlier, the reasons for the use of learning assistance become more complicated when the same student accesses learning assistance in one class because of academic difficulty, uses a different set of learning assistance ser­vices in another to supplement his or her learning, and uses none in other courses during the same or subsequent academic terms. As stated earlier, the use of learning assistance is based on the need presented by the academic course and not necessarily an attribute of overall academic weakness by the individual student.

Some institutions enroll a high percentage of students who are academi­cally underprepared in one or more academic content areas yet graduate them at high rates. The Community College of Denver, through the Center for Educational Advancement (, provides a comprehensive array of learning assistance services. Accurate assessment and course placement are essential, as most students enroll in one or more devel­opmental courses. Compared with other Colorado community colleges, this institution has the highest number and percentage of students enrolling in these courses. Students completing these required developmental courses grad­uate at a higher rate from college than students who were admitted and advised not to enroll in developmental courses. Comprehensive learning assistance ser­vices enable the institution to broaden access for students with a wider range of academic skills and achieve a high rate of timely graduation for all.