Annual Scope of Learning Assistance (Part Two)

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.

Understanding the scope of learning assistance throughout the United States requires careful review of national studies of enrollment patterns in developmental courses, participation in noncredit activities, and institutional and state policies affecting learning assistance activities. Table 1 focuses on one element of learning assistance, developmental courses in reading, mathematics, or writing. No uniform state or national reporting systems exist for noncredit services such as tutoring and attendance in learning centers (explored later in this report). The terms “remedial” and “developmental” course are used inter­changeably in this section.

Learning assistance often expresses itself differently among various institutional types: two-year and four-year, public and private. The services also appear differently in these categories among institutions of differing admissions selectivity. Although noncredit services such as tutoring and learning centers are commonly found among institutions, the provision of developmental courses is more commonly found at two-year institutions. Many institutions, however, provide both credit and noncredit services.

Many students who enroll in postsecondary education participate in learn­ing assistance activities in one form or another. Boylan (1999) confirms that nearly 2 million of the 12 million students enrolling in U.S. postsecondary education enroll in a developmental course or participate in other noncredit services such as tutoring or use of a learning center. Because 600,000 to 700,000 students enroll in the courses, more than 1 million students access noncredit services such as tutoring and learning assistance centers (Boylan, 1999; National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). For the past twenty years, nearly three-quarters of higher education institutions enrolling first-year students have offered at least one developmental reading, writing, or mathe­matics course. Although four-year research institutions decreased course offer­ings in this area during the 1990s (Barefoot, 2003), most institutions showed little overall significant change (National Center for Education Statistics, 1991, 1996, 2003). Offerings vary widely among institutional types. The highest percentage offering such courses are public two-year colleges (98 percent), fol­lowed by public four-year (80 percent), private two-year (63 percent), and pri­vate four-year (59 percent) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003).