College-Readiness

Annual Scope of Learning Assistance (Part Three)

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.

About 30 percent of first-time, first-year students enrolled in one or more developmental reading, writing, or mathematics courses since the 1980s. This rate rises to 40 percent of students who are the first in their family to attend col­lege (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003, 2005). For the past two decades, 600,000 to 700,000 first-year students enrolled annually in such courses. As a result of the research protocols used by the federal government for these stud­ies, the data do not include sophomores, juniors, seniors, or graduate students who enroll in remedial or developmental courses; students who participate in noncredit academic enrichment activities such as tutoring, group study review groups, learning strategy workshops, or similar activities; and students of any clas­sification who enroll in remedial or developmental courses in science or study strategies. Therefore, it is reasonable to estimate the number of students access­ing credit and noncredit services at 2 million annually (Boylan, 1999).

The following finding comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s study focusing primarily on developmental courses (National Center for Edu­cation Statistics, 2003). Of students enrolling in these courses, three-quarters successfully complete them. Most students enroll in developmental courses during only one academic term. Students are twice as likely to enroll in the courses at two-year institutions than in four-year colleges and universities. About three-quarters of institutions offer only institutional credit for the courses, while others offer graduation credit. In these cases, the credit counts as a free elective. About three-quarters of institutions require students to enroll in remedial or developmental courses based on their entry-level test scores. This percentage has increased during the 1990s. About two-thirds of institutions restrict concurrent enrollment in graduation-credit courses and developmen­tal courses. Nearly a quarter of institutions establish a time limit for success­fully completing these courses. A traditional academic unit such as the English or mathematics department is the most frequent provider of developmental courses, with a separate developmental department following in frequency. Learning centers are less frequently used, though the percentage has grown.

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).

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 (http://www.ccd.edu/LAA/LAAcea.html), 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.

History of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education: Mid 1990s to the Present

The following excerpt is from my monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  The history of learning assistance and developmental education is often overlooked, misunderstood, or incorrect.  This segment of the history looks at recent history of the field.  To find out more about my monograph, click on the box in the left column.

Turbulence in postsecondary education defines the current phase of history. Learning assistance activities and services have been curtailed at a growing num­ber of four-year institutions, especially large public universities. This change is concurrent with increased diversity of the student population, increased col­lege enrollments, increased competition for institutional funds, and decreased percentage of operating funds from state governments for public institutions. Although the need for learning assistance has expanded, its resources have become scarcer.

In the late 1990s, the perception of learning assistance changed for some— and not for the better. Critics have been particularly harsh toward programs that used the term “developmental education” to describe themselves. Large, public four-year institutions are engaged in intense dialogue about this topic. The terms developmental education, compensatory education, and remedial edu­cation suffer from stigma. In 1998 Martha Maxwell noted, “Developmental education has become a euphemism for remedial with all the negative con­notations that word implies.... Today, students taking developmental courses are stigmatized. . . In primary and secondary schools the term developmental education applies to programs for the mentally retarded” (Piper, 1998, p. 35). As remedial education engendered negative reactions from some policymak­ers, so did developmental education.

Several publications have prompted considerable conversation about improving the campus learning environment (Barr and Tagg, 1995; Lazerson, Wagener, and Shumanis, 2000). A number of learning assistance professionals have reinvented themselves as resources for the entire campus—students and faculty alike—by aligning with this paradigm of learning.

A result of the paradigm shift from teaching to learning led to creation of learning and teaching centers at some institutions. Although the name of these centers was the same, two variations were apparent. One type of learning and teaching center provides professional development for the teaching staff. Ser­vices include resource libraries, training programs for new instructors, ongo­ing mentoring programs, classroom observations with subsequent private consultations, and the like. A second type of learning and teaching center extends the professional development services for faculty by providing learning assistance services for students such as tutoring, learning skill workshops, drop-in learning centers, and credit courses.

Methods for operating these teaching and learning centers vary widely. An online search for these centers suggests that most were established at four-year institutions (Center for Teaching Excellence, 2009). Reviewing the Web sites for the centers suggests that they have been expressed differently based on administrative location under academic or student affairs. Those in student affairs tend to have a higher focus on delivery of learning assistance services for students. Those located under academic affairs more commonly focus on teaching faculty development activities. Another factor that has affected these centers is whether a faculty or staff member leads it. Those led by faculty members tend to be under academic affairs, those led by staff members most often under student affairs. Unlike the aforementioned learning assistance pro­fessional associations, no clear national organization represents these teaching and learning centers.

The teaching and learning center model has emerged to meet the broad needs that exist to assist student learning and faculty development. An online search for postsecondary teaching and learning centers identified several exam­ples among prestigious institutions. Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), through its Center for Learning and Teaching (http://www.clt.cornell.edu), serves students through the learning strategies center (tutoring, workshops, supplemental classes), student disability services, and international teaching assistance development program (workshops to improve communication and pedagogical skills). Instructors can access teaching assistance services (indi­vidual consultations and workshops to improve teaching skills) and faculty services (individual consultations to improve teaching effectiveness). At Stan­ford University (Palo Alto, California), the Center for Teaching and Learning (http://ctl.stanford.edu/) provides faculty development opportunities and tutoring, learning skills workshops, and academic coaching for students.

As these examples illustrate, common practices of these expanded centers include providing academic assistance to all students enrolled in identified courses, publishing teaching effectiveness newsletters, conducting learning effectiveness workshops, providing teaching mentors, and consulting on inno­vative instructional delivery. Both illustrate how learning assistance appears very differently at these prestigious institutions in comparison with open access community colleges. Developmental courses are not provided at these insti­tutions; instead, services for students focus on tutoring and noncredit learn­ing strategies workshops.

 

History of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education: 1970s through Mid-1990s Part Two

This excerpt is from monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  The history of learning assistance and developmental education is often ignored and misunderstood, especially by policymakers as they revise and restrict academic access programs.  This excerpt is part two of the time period between 1970s through mid-1990s.  For more information about my monograph, click the box in the left column.

Rise of the Professional Associations

The 1980s witnessed the birth of several national associations serving profes­sionals in the field of learning assistance, coinciding with the explosive growth in college enrollment and number of public postsecondary institutions, espe­cially community colleges. Institutions expanded their teaching staff for reme­dial and developmental courses. The exponential growth of learning assistance centers required a new category of college employees. These new profession­als needed organizations that met needs for postsecondary education rather than older organizations devoted to serving educators in elementary and sec­ondary education. They needed to increase their professionalism and provide venues for conversation with colleagues and experienced leaders in learning assistance. The new organizations provided a supportive community for new professionals who might be isolated on campus and were sometimes stigma­tized because of their association with learning assistance programs.

Established in 1952, the Southwest Reading Conference, later renamed the National Reading Conference, was first to serve postsecondary educators in this field. The College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA, previously named the Western College Reading Association and later the Western Col­lege Reading and Learning Association) was founded in 1966. The CRLA pub­lishes a quarterly newsletter, annual conference proceedings, and the biannual Journal of College Reading and Learning. Conferences are held annually at national venues and at CRLA-affiliated chapters throughout the United States. The focus of the CRLA was clearly postsecondary education. Previously, learning assistance personnel had few options for professional development other than from other organizations with a predominately elementary and secondary edu­cation focus such as the International Reading Association. The CRLA and the other learning assistance associations that followed it provided an identity and a place for postsecondary learning assistance professionals to gather and exchange information.

Following passage of national legislation creating the federal TRIO programs for first-generation and economically disadvantaged students, political advocacy was essential to expand financial and stable support for these programs. During the early 1970s, regional professional associations created by TRIO staff mem­bers represented their interests for increased national funding and provided pro­fessional development services for themselves. Clark Chipman, a regional USDOE higher education administrator for the Upper Midwest, was a key leader for development of the first TRIO association. It was called the Mid-American Association for Educational Opportunity Program Personnel. After­wards, nine additional regional associations formed across the United States. In 1981 Clark Chipman and Arnold Mitchem coordinated efforts of preceding regional associations to influence national policy through creation of the National Council of Educational Opportunity Associations. In 1988 the association changed its name to the Council on Opportunity in Education (Grout, 2003).

The National Association for Developmental Education (NADE, initially named the National Association for Remedial/Developmental Studies in Post­secondary Education) was founded in 1976. Because of uncertainty about what would become the more widely adopted term, both “remedial” and “developmental” were included in the association’s original name. In 1981 the NADE contracted with the National Center for Developmental Education to provide the Journal of Developmental Education as a membership benefit and official journal of the association. The NARDSPE changed its name to the NADE in 1984.

A variety of other professional associations were born in the 1990s. The National College Learning Center Association provided professional development for learning center directors. The National Tutoring Association served educators from higher education, secondary education, and private indi­viduals engaged in tutoring. The Association for the Tutoring Profession was created for similar purposes. The Council for Learning Assistance and Devel­opmental Education Associations (initially named the American Council of Developmental Education Associations) began in 1996 to serve as a forum for these professional associations to meet and engage in cooperative activities, information sharing, and networking.

The growth of these organizations signified historically that learning assis­tance was becoming more complex, employing more professionals, and needed professional associations focused on their special needs in higher education. Large established organizations such as the International Reading Association, Conference on College Composition and Communication, and American Mathematical Society generally provided special interest groups for postsec­ondary learning assistance professionals. They missed the opportunity, how­ever, to fully meet the needs of the professionals who preferred the smaller and more narrowly focused learning assistance associations. This situation led to duplication of services among the larger content-focused organizations and the smaller learning assistance associations. It also may have led to increased stigma for the learning assistance professionals, as they did not become mem­bers and attend the conferences of the larger organizations that attracted membership of mainstream college faculty and staff members. It was another way that some learning assistance professionals stood apart from the main­stream in higher education.

Support Systems for Leaders and Practitioners

Several other national organizations, graduate education programs, and publi­cations have contributed to the history of the learning assistance community. A three-year grant from the Kellogg Foundation established the National Cen­ter for Developmental Education (NCDE) in 1976. Two years later NCDE began publishing The Journal of Developmental Education (initially named Jour­nal of Developmental and Remedial Education). Review of Research in Develop­mental Education was another NCDE publication; created in 1983, it focused on current research in the field. Since 1980 the center has also hosted the Kellogg Institute for the Training and Certification of Developmental Educators.

During this period, a variety of formal and informal systems of professional development for learning assistance were established. Practitioners in the field previously relied on degree programs for elementary and secondary education. Secondary educators teaching reading, English, and mathematics staffed many of the learning assistance centers and taught developmental courses in post­secondary institutions.

New graduate programs also emerged to equip learning center profession­als at the college level rather than relying on preparation for secondary schools. The first graduate programs in developmental education (M.A. and Ed.S.) began at Appalachian State University in 1972. Grambling State University (Louisiana) in 1986 offered the nation’s first doctoral program (Ed.D.). National Louis University (Chicago), Texas State University at San Marcos, and the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities (Minneapolis) also established learning assistance graduate certificate or degree programs during this period. Collectively these advanced degrees contributed to the professionalization and ability to meet student needs by learning assistance faculty and staff members. A major challenge with the national impact of these programs is that they are few in number and many current learning assistance professionals find it dif­ficult to relocate them to meet residency requirements and to secure funds for tuition. An expansion of distance learning pedagogies for the degree programs would permit easier access for graduate students who are place bound and unable to participate in long required residency stays at the degree-granting institutions.

History of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education: Mid-1940s through 1970s

The following is an excerpt from my monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  Click on the box in the left column to learn more about the monograph. The history of learning assistance and developmental education is too often overlooked or ignored.  This is important for today's policy discussions and decisions impacting academic access and support programs for college students.

The fourth phase of learning assistance history occurred throughout the mid­dle of the twentieth century. Learning assistance dramatically expanded to meet increased needs resulting from escalating college enrollment. Building on past practices of tutoring and remedial courses, learning assistance expanded services to more students through compensatory education and learning assistance centers. Stigma heightened for learning assistance partici­pants because of increased stratification of academic preparation among enter­ing students. Although previously enrollment in remedial classes was common for most college students (Brubacher and Rudy, 1976; Maxwell, 1979), it was no longer the case. Entering students from privileged backgrounds were better prepared academically than the new first-generation college and economically disadvantaged students who were entering postsecondary education for the first time. Stigma began to attach to the students who enrolled in the reme­dial and subsequent developmental courses by those who did not need to do so. Well-prepared privileged students did not need extensive learning assis­tance during college as had the previous generation of college students. The new students, especially those from rural communities and urban centers and many historically underrepresented students of color, had uneven access to such education. This dichotomy of experiences created a perception that devel­opmental courses were needed primarily for students of color. Actually, two-thirds of students enrolled in these courses were white, but it is true that students of color are twice as likely at two-year colleges and three times more likely at four-year institutions to enroll in the courses in relationship to their proportion of the overall population of all college students (Boylan, Bonham, and Bliss, 1994).

Increased Federal Involvement

Federal involvement intensified during this time with increased financial sup­port, legislative oversight, and creation of new college access programs. Sig­nificant events occurred: the GI bill, expansion of civil rights, and equal opportunity legislation. The National Center for Education Statistics (1993) tracks a variety of educational activities, including rates of college enrollment. A retrospective in trends over a period of 120 years revealed an increase in col­lege enrollment. College enrollment increased significantly during the 1950s, as the college enrollment rate rose from 15 to 24 percent among eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds over that decade. During the 1960s, the rate increased to 35 percent, finally reaching 45 percent in the 1970s. Much of this later growth was the result of increased enrollment by adult and part-time students, who required learning assistance support different from their peers (National Center for Education Statistics, 1993).

Colleges were increasingly asked to provide services for older students who often faced concurrent challenges of failure to enroll in college-bound cur­riculum while in high school and the interruption of education between high school and college as a result of entering the workforce, raising a family, or enlisting in the military. Academic skills often atrophied during the interven­ing years. These students often brought multiple needs that required academic support and enrichment. Many college preparatory programs expanded as a result. A national survey (Barbe, 1951) documented the growth of reading clinics created to meet the increased number of students academically under-prepared for college-level work. Another resource introduced beginning in the 1950s was counseling services in remedial programs (Kulik and Kulik, 1991).

Another catalyst for change was the civil rights movement, manifested in the early 1960s in various forms that resulted in major societal changes of infrastructure—including in learning assistance programs (Chazan, 1973; Clowes, 1980). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other programs of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society focused on increasing opportunities for peo­ple of color as well as those people historically excluded from many of society’s benefits. Learning assistance services, especially remedial and devel­opmental courses, took on additional tasks. Their responsibility expanded beyond preparation of students for college-level courses, and the learning assis­tance field received an indirect mandate to serve as a major resource to enable postsecondary institutions to increase dramatically their enrollments by stu­dents who had been excluded before—the poor, students of color, and students from families that had never completed college. This informal social responsibility by the learning assistance community would overwhelm its capacity to meet the need as a result of insufficient funding and a lack of trained personnel to provide the services. Although not formally stated in offi­cial documents, college learning assistance programs were expected to com­pensate for inadequate secondary schools, especially in rural and urban centers, and assist students to quickly develop college-level skills in an academic term or two. Overcoming an inadequate elementary and secondary education with limited time, resources, and personnel was a nearly impossible task. The field is still informally held to these expectations today and contributes to criticism for not achieving desired student outcomes.

Compensatory Education

Deep-rooted social problems influencing many students of color and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds created the need for a new type of edu­cation program. During the early 1960s, national civil rights legislation estab­lished the Office of Compensatory Education in the U.S. Office of Education (Chazan, 1973). The civil rights movement chose a different perspective of learning assistance. “Compensatory education” remedied a previous state of discrimination: “Compensatory education in higher education would take the form of remediation activities such as preparatory and supplementary work . . . all with a program to provide an enriching experience beyond the academic environment to counterbalance a nonsupportive home environment” (Clowes, 1980, p. 8).

Some believed environmental conditions, often induced by poverty, were responsible for students’ poor academic achievement. Compensatory educa­tion defined itself as “those efforts designed to make up for the debilitating consequences of discrimination and poverty” (Frost and Rowland, 1971,

p. vii). President Johnson’s War on Poverty also targeted the negative outcomes caused by these environmental conditions. Compensatory education provided an improved home environment that had been identified as a significant fac­tor for future academic achievement (Maxwell, 1997; Ntuk-Iden, 1978). This paradigm shift from remediating deficits of individual students to remedying deficits of the learning environment and the community required different learning assistance interventions. The response was systemic and involved interventions beyond the provision of tutorial programs and remedial credit courses. Such compensatory programs required significant federal oversight, funding, and management.

New compensatory education programs such as TRIO and other Equal Opportunity programs originated in the 1969 civil rights legislation. Accord­ing to federal legislation, student eligibility for these new programs required them to meet one or more of the following criteria: (1) neither parent com­pleted college; (2) an economically disadvantaged background; or (3) an eli­gible disability. The TRIO college access programs became an official entitlement for a federally defined population based on historical underrep­resentation in postsecondary education or physical disability (Kerstiens, 1997).

Compensatory education also included traditional approaches to learning assistance—tutoring, counseling, and remedial credit courses—along with a new package of activities including educational enrichment and cultural expe­riences (Clowes, 1980). Compensatory education leaders distanced themselves from traditional learning assistance activities, however, to avoid the stigma associated with those programs. They positioned compensatory education as creating a new learning culture for students who had suffered historic dis­crimination and had been underserved by their previous education (Clowes, 1980).

Compensatory education was based on the public health model rather than the medical model (Clowes, 1980). The model expanded beyond the indi­vidual to the surrounding academic and economic environment that affected students. Identifying student deficits, providing remedial assistance, and adding supplemental enrichment activities were essential for compensatory education. In addition to a curriculum that included remedial courses, com­pensatory education also sought to immerse students in a new learning cul­ture that included enrichment activities.

Therefore, compensatory education is not identical to traditional learning assistance approaches. It provides a specific response to a new student popu­lation in postsecondary education. Added to its mission was the cultural enrichment of students whose impoverished backgrounds mandated a differ­ent approach. Rather than changing the physical surroundings in which stu­dents lived and attended school, compensatory education sought to create a separate and enriched learning community for these students. Another approach to create a supportive learning environment for historically under­represented college students took place in the junior and community colleges.

Federally funded compensatory education programs were a response by the national government to historic injustices. These new programs were accountable, monitored, and funded by the federal government. They were a direct intervention into individual postsecondary institutions. Only approved students could be served through the programs to ensure that the local insti­tution did not divert funds for other purposes. This direct and narrow focus met the needs of many who were served (Grout, 2003). It also became an enormous missed opportunity that not only marginalized the students served and the compensatory programs but also failed to meet the larger issue.

The campus environment and allocation of resources also contributed to lower performance by historically excluded students of color, poor students, and first-generation students. The federal response could have been to hold postsecondary institutions accountable for outcomes of all students. Instead, the response was to create small communities that operated in the larger insti­tutions that could only serve about 10 percent of eligible students (Nealy, 2009; Swail and Roth, 2000). States could also have joined this demand for accountability and made college funding contingent on improved student outcomes, including persistence toward graduation, for not only the overall student population but also for demographic groups such as those from low socioeconomic status, students of color, and first-generation students.

The British provide a model for this type of accountability for higher edu­cation. Their “widening participation” initiative holds colleges accountable for student outcomes, among them graduation rates for all students, including those historically neglected (Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2006). Rather than national funds provided for narrowly targeted populations and accompanying services, the funds are for initiatives that result in changes in the campus culture and are critical elements of the campus strategic goals (Higher Education Funding Council for England, 2006). The demographics of the entering student body are to be reflected in the graduating students, or part of the annual appropriation by the national government is subject to with­holding. This type of financial accountability as well as supplemental funding from the government for efforts at widening participation could have been implemented in the United States as well.

Instead, the federal government informally endorsed the marginalization of first-generation, economically disadvantaged, and disabled students by pro­viding programs for only a small portion of those who were eligible. These students were identified as different from the others and provided separate programs to serve them, and the participants as well as the service providers suffered from the ensuing stigma while the institutional culture remained essentially unchanged.

Role of the Junior and Community Colleges

When junior and community colleges expanded in the early 1900s, the entry-level test scores for college applicants were moderately lower than those for four-year institutions (Koos, 1924). This situation dramatically changed in the 1960s as open-door admissions policies at two-year colleges brought many students to postsecondary education that formerly entered the workforce immediately after high school. Junior colleges expanded their mission beyond only preparing students for successful transfer to senior institutions. Com­munity colleges retrained their transfer function and expanded their mission to serve students who were academically underprepared and those enrolled in new certificate vocational programs that served the local community. This shift in focus led the majority of these junior colleges to rename themselves com­munity colleges because of their expanded vision and mission of service (Cohen and Brawer, 2002).

Increased pressure was placed on community colleges in the 1970s and 1980s as four-year institutions recruited more college-bound students to replace ballooning enrollments from returning war veterans (who used the fed­eral GI bill) and the subsequent postwar baby boom. Senior institutions recruited more academically able students and left community colleges to seek more students who were academically underprepared, dramatically increasing the need for comprehensive learning assistance centers and remedial or devel­opmental community college courses. An unanticipated result of this shift in the academic profile of students enrolled at senior institutions created a false perception that little need existed for learning assistance. The opposite occurred at four-year institutions as faculty perceived, wrongly, that new stu­dent admits were more academically able to master difficult course material (Hankin, 1996). The gap between student preparation and faculty expecta­tions required a different form of learning assistance, leading to the creation of noncredit learning assistance centers and the decline of remedial credit courses.

New populations of nontraditional students joined traditional-aged stu­dents. Expanded federal financial aid through the GI bill and federal civil rights legislation that created compensatory programs such as TRIO fueled an increase in enrollments. The rapidly growing community colleges became the primary offerors of credit-bearing remedial and developmental courses. The core mission of two-year colleges often included providing services for students who had been identified as academically underprepared, but no cor­responding statement was made about serving these students in most public four-year colleges and universities. This lack of official institutional priority for serving students that were academically underprepared in one or more aca­demic content areas served as a catalyst for the shift in credit-bearing reme­dial and developmental offerings from four-year to two-year institutions. This shift contributed to the attachment of further stigma to remedial and devel­opmental courses.

Before this shift occurred in the 1990s, however, many college academic preparatory services at four-year and two-year institutions had responded to the new influx of students by increasing the comprehensiveness of their learn­ing services (Boylan, 1988; Boylan, 1995a). In the mid-1970s, nearly 80 per­cent of all postsecondary institutions provided academic enrichment and support programs (Roueche and Snow, 1977). Although this rate was nearly the same as the late 1880s, services provided by these programs were more comprehensive, extensive, and coordinated than earlier ones.

Almost half of first-time community college students in the late 1960s and 1970s were underprepared for college-level courses in one or more academic areas. Students often enrolled in one or more developmental courses (Roueche and Roueche, 1999; McCabe and Day, 1998). Although college-bound stu­dents in high school enrolled in college preparatory courses, they may have selected the wrong ones or the quality of them may have been insufficient for success in first-year, graduation-credit college courses (Horn, Chen, and MPR Associates, 1998). Frustration with the inability to predict student success cre­ated great frustration for all stakeholders involved in the academic enterprise: “The open door often turned into a revolving door, with students dropping out and stopping out regularly. This led to a highly charged debate about the lowering of standards, often followed by the call to raise admission standards and close the doors of opportunity to the thousands of prospective new stu­dents” (Casazza and Silverman, 1996, p. 28).

Sometimes change occurs because of intentional choices and visionary lead­ership by a few individuals. Other times it occurs through reaction to the sur­rounding environment. Learning assistance during this phase changed because of the latter reason. A major variable that affected U.S. postsecondary educa­tion in the mid-1900s was rapid expansion of the student body and failure by many institutions to provide sufficient learning assistance services to support their academic success. As a major influx of new students came into college, the previous learning assistance activities were unable to meet the need. For example, only a fixed number of counseling appointments were available weekly, as few colleges were able or willing to hire more staff. The same was true for faculty teaching remedial courses. Newer, more flexible and scalable learning assistance systems were created. These new services employed student and paraprofessional staff along with the professional staff, prompting creation of new learning assistance approaches in the fifth phase of higher education history.

History of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education: 1870s through Mid-1940s

The following is an excerpt from my monograph, Access at the Crossroads.  Click on the box in the left column to learn more about it.  Too often the history of learning assistance and developmental education is misunderstood or ignored.  This is important for today's policy debates about access programs.

The third phase of postsecondary education history began during the late 1800s and continued until World War II. The major activities during this era were expansion of tutoring and incorporation of remedial courses in the col­lege curriculum. Academic preparatory academies had been the temporary home for this curriculum earlier in the 1800s. The most frequent service con­tinued to be individual and group tutoring. White male students from privi­leged cultural and economic backgrounds still dominated college campuses. Women and students of color attended newly established institutions reserved for them. These institutions also embraced remedial courses.

Relationship of the Federal Government and Learning Assistance

The federal government increased direct involvement with postsecondary edu­cation during this time. The First Morrill Act (1862) established land-grant colleges, which was the federal government’s first significant financial involve­ment with postsecondary education. The mission of these new colleges fos­tered new degree programs in applied education such as agriculture and the mechanical arts. Established denominational private institutions had not pre­viously offered this curriculum. This action broadened the curriculum and increased access for students of modest academic preparation and lower socio­economic backgrounds.

Although colleges offered wider access through the 1862 Morrill Act, aca­demic preparation of potential students remained uneven. Many new college students had not attended public high school, as few were in operation in the expanding West of the United States. The dramatic widening of access to post­secondary education accelerated development of academic departments that offered remedial courses and tutoring deemed essential for the new students. “Iowa State College simply required that entering freshman be fourteen years old and able to read, write, and do arithmetic. However, when they lacked these skills, students were placed in the college’s preparatory department” (Maxwell, 1997, p. 11). College enrollments soared and many of these new students enrolled in remedial courses. Offering remedial courses and other learning assistance services in a college department addressed many of the problems experienced by external academic preparatory academies such as lack of coordinated curriculum, poor teaching facilities, lack of proper adminis­trative control, and increased stigma for participating students. These prob­lems were the result of the very nature of these academies, as they were clearly separate and seen just as a prerequisite to the college experience.

Remedial Education

The need for academic preparatory departments increased with admission of more students that were academically underprepared. Eighty-four percent of land-grant institutions offered remedial courses by the late 1880s (Craig, 1997). The most frequent term used to describe learning assistance from the 1860s through the early 1960s was “remedial education.” Remedial education targeted students’ specific skill deficits and employed new educational approaches. Clowes (1980) applied an analogy of the traditional medical model for reme­dial education. Academic weakness was detected through assessment. The prob­lem was hoped to be cured through prescribed treatment. Clowes categorized students enrolled in remedial education as “academically backward or less able students” (p. 8). Repeated academic treatment persisted until students achieved the desired outcomes or “cures.” Students possessed many academic deficits needing prescriptive remediation. Remedial education focused on cognitive deficits and not on improvements in the affective domain. An early glossary developed by the College Reading and Learning Association defined remedial as “instruction designed to remove a student’s deficiencies in the basic entry or exit level skills at a prescribed level of proficiency in order to make him/her competitive with peers” (Rubin, 1991, p. 9). Remedial students were identi­fied as “students who are required to participate in specific academic improve­ment courses/programs as a condition of entry to college” (p. 9).

Remedial education was a prerequisite to enrolling in college-level courses. Remedial courses focused on acquiring skills and knowledge at the secondary school level. Developmental courses, on the other hand, developed skills above the exit level from high school that were needed for success in college. These courses entered the college curriculum during the next historical phase.

In 1879 Harvard admitted 50 percent of applicants “on condition” because they failed the entrance examination. Tutorial programs initially designed for success with college entrance exams were expanded to assist these provision­ally admitted students to succeed in their college courses (Weidner, 1990). The Harvard Reports of 1892, 1895, and 1897 documented poor academic prepa­ration of admitted students. University administrators were surprised to dis­cover that students who suffered academic difficulty were not only those from poor or nonexistent high school education. Instead, it was also the “picked boys” (Goodwin, 1895, p. 292), students from the upper class of U.S. society (Hill, 1885). Provision of tutoring and remedial credit courses demonstrated academic rigor at Harvard and exceeded the academic preparation level even for students with formal preparation for postsecondary education. The gap between academic preparation and college performance placed many of the elite students in need of learning assistance (Brier, 1984).

Remedial Courses in the Curriculum

By 1874 Harvard was first to offer a first-year remedial English course in response to faculty complaints that too many students lacked competency for formal writing activities. Harvard was the first institution that permitted elec­tive courses in response to changing needs of the curriculum. Without flexi­bility with course options, remedial courses would have been available only as a precollege option. Academic conditions remained unchanged at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia by 1907 when half the students failed to earn the minimum composite entrance exam score. Harvard offered a remedial reading course beginning in the early 1900s (Brubacher and Rudy, 1976).

One of the earliest manifestations of college-level learning assistance was the remedial course. The most frequent remedial courses were reading and study skills. More than 350 colleges in 1909 offered “how to study” classes for academically underprepared students. The U.S. Commissioner for Education reported in 1913 that approximately 80 percent of postsecondary institutions offered college preparatory programs with a wide variety of services, includ­ing tutoring and remedial courses (Maxwell, 1979). This rate was nearly the same as the mid-1800s. Sensitive to perceptions by students, professors, and others, many colleges began to redefine remedial activities to make them more acceptable by students and campus administrators. When the director of Har­vard’s Bureau of Study Counsel renamed Remedial Reading to the Reading Class, enrollment increased from thirty to four hundred annually in 1938 (Wyatt, 1992). Through the introduction of the first developmental course, provision of noncredit academic support, and careful use of language to describe its services and course offerings, the learning assistance field owes much to the leadership and innovations of Harvard University.

Junior colleges (later renamed community colleges) extended the new sec­ondary school movement in the early 1900s. Among the broad mission of many junior colleges was college academic preparation. An analogy for this focus on serving academically underprepared students is calling them “the Ellis Island of higher education” (Vaughan, 1983, p. 9). Many four-year institu­tions transferred their academic preparatory programs to junior colleges in the early 1900s. As described earlier, standardized admissions test scores permit­ted colleges to refer students to different types of institutions that maintained varying levels of admission selectivity. As four-year institutions received more state and federal appropriations, the institutional financial profile improved. The need to admit high numbers of students who needed academic help to generate tuition revenue and meet institutional expenses lessened (Richard­son, Martens, and Fisk, 1981).

A national survey in 1929 of institutions revealed about one-fourth of sur­vey respondents confirmed that their college assessed reading with the admis­sion examination. Nearly half of all students were enrolled in remedial courses (Parr, 1930). These courses often focused heavily on reading skills. Nearly 90 percent of respondents stated they had not conducted research studies regard­ing the effectiveness of their learning assistance program (Parr, 1930). Soci­etal changes in the middle of the twentieth century required a major expansion of learning assistance to meet a rapidly growing student body—growing in its diversity and level of academic preparation for college-level work.

to be continued. . .