Earlier this week, the Department of Education announced a new process to resolve about 21,000 applications for borrower defense discharges, available to students whose schools have mistreated them in violation of state law. For some of these students, the resolution of their applications will lead to full student loan discharges and allow the students a fresh start. Other students, however, will receive partial discharges, meaning that their loan balances will be reduced but not eliminated. While the resolution of these claims is long overdue, we have both questions and concerns about how the amount of relief provided to each student is being determined.

The announcement explains a new approach for deciding whether students with valid claims will have their loans written off or only reduced. Students’ earnings will be compared against the average earnings of students from comparable programs that passed the gainful employment standard, a rule designed to ensure that career education programs are adequately preparing students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. In effect, this approach would contrast what harmed students are earning against what they might have been earning had they attended a better program leading to the same credential in the same area, and discharge a proportion of their debt based on how their earnings compare to those of passing programs’ graduates. For example, “students whose current earnings are less than 50 percent of their peers from a passing gainful employment (GE) program will receive full relief.”

Even conceptually, this approach is highly problematic. A student lured into enrolling in and borrowing for a worthless program might see minimal to no relief if they were paying their bills by working in a completely unrelated job, earning minimum wage. This effectively punishes borrowers who manage to stay afloat despite being mistreated by their schools, akin to a “lemon law” that doesn’t require manufacturers to reimburse or replace cars if consumers can afford to buy a replacement car themselves.

Yet practical questions remain about how this process will work, and the answers may raise additional concerns.

First, how will the Department consider the borrower’s earnings, when calculating relief? The wording of the announcement seems to suggest that an individual student’s actual earnings would be used to determine the relief amount, but several news stories have indicated that the Department will instead consider the average earnings of graduates from the program the student had attended. But individual students may have different experiences, and many students will have incomes far lower than the program mean or median. This variation in students’ experiences is likely particularly common within gainful employment programs because the Department’s data sometimes combine multiple campuses.

Including only students who completed their program will likely overstate the earnings for all students who attended that program. Because noncompleters are likely to have lower earnings on average than the completers in the earnings data the Department is reportedly using to calculate relief, using completers’ earnings will drastically minimize the amount of relief being made available. This is an especially concerning issue for borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges (a chain of for-profit schools known more commonly as Everest, Wyotech, and Heald) because a clear majority of Corinthian borrowers did not complete their programs. For example, College Scorecard data show that 61% of students borrowing federal loans to attend Corinthian schools left their programs without completing. 


The Majority of Students who borrowed to attend Corinthian schools never finished their program


Moreover, earnings data are not available for all programs. Most of the nearly 100,000 pending borrower defense claims come from former students of Corinthian Colleges, where the Department itself helped to document widespread, substantial misconduct of the sort that makes students eligible for loan discharges. In fact, the misconduct was so pronounced that the Department created an expedited borrower defense application process for students who had borrowed to attend over 700 Corinthian programs.  

The Corinthian Colleges schools that remain open were purchased by a nonprofit, Zenith Education Group, in 2015. This distinction between for-profit and nonprofit status is relevant because the gainful employment rule – data from which borrower defense discharge amounts will reportedly be pegged – applies to virtually all programs at for-profit colleges as well as certificate programs at public and nonprofit colleges. Despite the fact that Zenith agreed that the purchased schools would continue to comply with the gainful employment rule as a condition of the sale, the Department’s gainful employment data exclude virtually all degree programs from former Corinthian schools. As a result, there are no publicly available earnings data from these programs. Hundreds of the programs for which the Department had created an expedited borrower defense process were degree programs, and this week’s announcement is silent on how discharge amounts would be determined in cases where program-level earnings are unavailable.

If the Department’s process is intended to adjudicate borrower defense claims from mistreated students in a way that “makes them whole,” this approach misses the mark. It is also important to remember that even full loan discharges and refunds are still only partial relief for students who, in addition to having borrowed federal loans, may have used up eligibility for time-limited grants, taken out private loans that can’t be discharged, and invested their own time and money into their education. These are resources that students can’t get back. Figuring out ways to pinch pennies out of students’ federal loan discharges is ill-advised, and the Department’s plan for doing so is ill-conceived. 



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Today, we updated College InSight (www.college-insight.org) – our unique web site for higher education research—with data for academic years 2014-15 and 2015-16, including new data from the Department of Education that were released just last month.

For eight years, College InSight has been an easy-to-use, consumer-friendly resource for anyone interested in analyzing issues related to college affordability, diversity, and student success. Whether you are a prospective student interested in the racial and ethnic diversity of colleges you’re considering, an institutional researcher curious about how your college’s institutional grant aid awarding compares with that of peer institutions, or a policymaker trying to better understand differences in costs and debt across different types of institutions or states, this database is a valuable resource to identify and highlight important trends in higher education.

College InSight includes rich data from over 12,000 U.S. colleges and universities and nearly 200 variables. Unlike other higher education data tools, College InSight features totals and averages for states, sectors, and other groupings of colleges. In addition to data from the Department of Education, this tool includes undergraduate financial aid data from the Common Data Set (CDS), such as financial need, institutional grants, and the cumulative debt of graduates.

So what can you do on College InSight? On the website, you have the option of browsing data in Spotlight, Topics, or Explore All Data.

In Spotlight, you can view a snapshot of selected variables for a selected college, state, or school type, and choose a relevant comparison. For example, the screenshot below shows a comparison between California State University, Sacramento and all public 4-year colleges in California. More variables and charts are available if you scroll down, and you can also change years.

In Topics, you can focus on particular issues in higher education, such as economic diversity, student success, and financial aid.

If you are a more sophisticated data user and want to compare multiple colleges, states, or types of schools, or choose from additional variables or years, you can use Explore All Data to build your own table. For example, this screenshot shows a comparison of various college costs for all public, 4-year colleges in California over time. You can download the data as a spreadsheet or save your results for sharing with others.

If you are a “super user” and wish to access more than 50 variables or data for more than 1,000 colleges, states, or sectors, you can even request the data file from us. It’s available for free, though we always appreciate finding out what folks are doing with it!

If you have any questions about the website or suggestions for improvement, please email us at collegeinsight@ticas.org. We welcome any feedback you may have, as we plan for a larger revamp of the site. 

Technical tip: If you have visited College InSight before, you may need to clear the cached images/files in your browser to make sure our updated site works properly.

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Unlike its House counterpart, the Senate’s 2018 budget resolution expected to pass tonight or tomorrow does not detail cuts to student loans and Pell Grants. However, it proposes overall spending levels that would require similar if not exactly the same cuts to student aid proposed in the House’s budget resolution that passed in early October.  We’ve previously called attention to these proposals, including the elimination of all mandatory funding for Pell Grants. Today we focus on another of these unnecessary and harmful proposals—an arbitrary maximum income cap that would eliminate Pell Grants for students with household incomes above a fixed threshold, regardless of family size or other financial circumstances that affect their ability to pay for college. Attempting to limit Pell Grant eligibility in this way is not new, but the current political climate in which the proposal is being advanced, combined with recent external encouragement, makes resisting such efforts more urgently critical.  

Arguments for a maximum income cap rely on the unsupported assertion that an increasing share of Pell Grants are going to “middle income” students who don’t have nearly as much financial need as the lowest income students. However, data clearly show that the vast majority of all Pell Grant recipients continue to have family incomes of $40,000 or less, and furthermore that the median family income of Pell Grant recipients (in 2011-12, $26,100 for dependents and $12,700 for independents) has been declining over time.

Additionally, the federal aid eligibility formula rightly recognizes that while income is a central component of a family’s ability to contribute toward the cost of college, income alone is an insufficient determinant of financial need. In addition to income information, the federal financial aid formula also takes into account factors including assets, taxes paid, household size, and the number of family members in college at the same time—factors that directly affect a family’s ability to afford college for each student. For example, of the Pell Grant recipients with family incomes above $40,000, more than two-thirds have families of four or larger, and almost two in five have families of five or larger.* Of the just 10% of Pell Grant recipients with family incomes over $50,000, almost four in five (79%) come from families of four or more, and many have more than one family member in college. While an income of $50,000 may be near the median US income, larger families must use that “middle” income to cover basic needs for more family members, and potentially to cover college costs for more than one family member at the same time.

Establishing an arbitrary maximum income cap would undermine college access and completion goals by forcing students with very high financial need to make up for lost grant aid by working longer hours, taking out more loans, or forgoing college altogether. Pell Grant recipients already face disproportionate debt burdens in attending and completing college: Nearly nine in 10 Pell Grant recipients who graduate from four-year colleges have student loans, and their average debt is $4,750 more than students who did not receive a Pell Grant.

Now is the time to protect and strengthen the Pell Grant for all students with significant financial need, not arbitrarily restrict access to those grants.

* See the Department of Education’s Federal Pell Grant Program 2015-16 End of Year Report, Table 71: Distribution of Federal Pell Grant Recipients by Family Income and Family Size, available for download here: https://www2.ed.gov/finaid/prof/resources/data/pell-data.html

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California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation today (AB 19 from Assemblymember Santiago) that is widely reported to make community college tuition free for Californians. If fully funded by the legislature, the bill would provide dollars sufficient to cover tuition for first-time, full-time students who do not qualify for the California College Promise Grant (known until last month as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver), which has long fully covered community college tuition for students with demonstrated financial need.

But the bill actually provides much broader and more meaningful flexibility to colleges than is widely understood. The bill does not require colleges to eliminate tuition for these additional students, but instead allocates money to colleges to spend in ways that will increase college access and success and decrease inequities in which students get to and through college. Community colleges “may” use funds to cover tuition for those students who don’t already benefit from the fee waiver, but they don’t have to, and that is a good thing.

To qualify for the new funds, colleges must agree to implement certain student-oriented reforms, such as partnering with local school districts to foster college awareness among students before they leave high school, using evidence-based practices to assess students’ academic readiness, creating guided pathways to help students complete programs and degrees without getting lost, and ensuring students’ access to all the need-based financial resources available to them. 

These details are important, because a meaningful promise to increase college access, affordability, and success for California’s students has to address more than just tuition. College enrollment means little if students don’t know which courses to take or can’t get into them, if they’re stuck in unnecessary developmental coursework, or if they can’t afford their textbooks or transportation to campus. These are very real obstacles that hold students back from succeeding in college even when tuition is free. And the structure of AB 19 allows future funding to be used to help students overcome these hurdles. Here are just some of the important ways that colleges could choose to spend funds appropriated for the bill:

  • For low-income students with children, the lack of affordable childcare can be a tremendous obstacle to persisting in college. Money provided under AB 19 could be used to support childcare centers on campuses, or direct aid to low-income parents to help them cover childcare costs.

  • The new funds could be used to provide transportation passes or textbook vouchers for low-income students, better positioning them to get to campus and pass their courses.

  • More than 20 community colleges in California do not offer federal student loans, in part because they don’t feel they have the resources they need to administer the loan program responsibly. Offering federal loans is a requirement for receiving AB 19 funds; these colleges could use these funds to support loan counseling and other efforts that would enable them to reenter the loan program.

With the lowest community college tuition in the country, and an existing financial aid program that covers tuition for low- and middle-income students, challenges outside of tuition are almost certainly bigger determinants of student success at most community colleges in California. Thankfully, the bill Governor Brown signed today allows colleges the choice for how best to support the enrollment and completion of their students.

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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2018-19 school year became available on October 1st, and millions of students can once again use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to electronically transfer their tax information directly into the form. (As we wrote about here, the DRT was taken down due to security concerns in March.) Unfortunately, the DRT will remain unavailable for students applying for aid for the 2017-18 school year, which runs through June 2018.

Due to the security enhancements made to the tool, there are a few important changes that students and families should be aware of while they fill out the FAFSA for the 2018-19 school year:

  • To protect personal data from potential identity theft, the information transferred via the DRT will no longer be visible to the applicant on the online FAFSA or the Student Aid Report (SAR). Instead, those fields will display “Transferred from the IRS”. For 2018-19 applicants, the data will come directly from their 2016 tax return.
  • An applicant will not be able to change the IRS data that is transferred via the DRT, but can contact colleges directly if their financial situation has changed or they or their parents file an amended tax return.
  • The applicant may receive a letter in the mail from the IRS each time the DRT is accessed. They should not be alarmed by the official-looking IRS mail — it is an extra layer of protection!

The DRT is a crucial tool for students and families. It makes the FAFSA process much faster and easier, and reduces the burden of “verification” – a process that requires selected students to submit additional documentation before receiving the financial aid they qualify for. For more about the importance of this tool and why any applicant who can use the DRT should do so, see the National College Access Network’s recent blog post: “The IRS is Ready for FAFSA Season – Are You?

We thank the Department of Education and IRS for working together to restore secure access to this critical tool, and for doing so without creating burdensome new authentication requirements that would have made it difficult for low-income students to use it.

For more information about the DRT outage and restoration, see our previous blog posts:

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Last month, the House Budget Committee released their fiscal year 2018 budget resolution, which sets Congressional funding priorities for the coming fiscal year starting October 1, 2017, and provides a fiscal blueprint for the next decade. This resolution lays out a plan even more extreme than the education cuts proposed by the Trump Administration’s FY18 budget. In addition to including well over $200 billion in cuts to education funding over the next ten years, the resolution also initiates the fast-track reconciliation process that would require at least $20 billion of these education cuts be made this coming year.  

Recent threats to college affordability and access are persistently coming from multiple directions: the FY17 spending agreement already raided $1.3b from Pell Grants, the President’s budget proposed deep cuts to federal education spending, and the House Appropriations Committee separately agreed to raid $3.3 billion from Pell Grants in FY18 at the same time this budget resolution was introduced. However, the House Budget plan is a uniquely devastating attack on federal support for higher education.

The budget resolution’s massive cuts to both the Pell Grant and student loans would magnify the already heavy burden of debt on students, families, and the economy. We’ve summarized the cuts to student loans, and their impact, on Twitter:

The proposed cuts to Pell Grants are likewise both numerous and extreme. This thread lays out each one, and what they mean for students and equity in higher education more generally:

It’s helpful to remember that the House Budget Committee’s framing of the link between federal financial aid and tuition costs — which we can only assume is an attempt to help justify all these deep cuts — is both deceptively narrow and unsupported by research.

The House Budget report furthermore claims that cuts are needed because the Pell Grant’s current funding is unsustainable, but evidence shows that is simply not true.

In reality, steady program costs and existing reserve funds signal an opportunity to make an increased investment in Pell Grants to better support the nation’s students and their career goals. As the FY18 budget process moves forward, we urge Congress to reject these needless cuts to federal financial aid that would take our country down a path of deeper inequity and a weaker economy, and instead heed the call of over 300 colleges and student advocates to strengthen Pell Grants.

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Next month, we’ll be releasing our twelfth annual report on state-by-state and school-by-school levels of student debt among recent college graduates, Student Debt and the Class of 2016.  A lot has changed since we started these analyses.  Initially, our aim was to call attention to rising levels of indebtedness, as the issue of student debt was not yet commanding the attention of the public or policymakers.  Now, student debt is widely recognized as a significant national issue affecting millions of Americans, and our report isn’t simply about raising awareness of rising debt and where debt levels are highest. It’s also about fostering support for policies to help reduce debt and debt burdens for those who need to borrow to pay for college.

Along with new state- and institution-level debt figures, our forthcoming report will include analysis of where private loan borrowing, which is riskier than federal loan borrowing, is most pronounced. We’ll also be taking a close look at colleges where graduates leave with high levels of debt and whether those colleges have chosen to spend substantial financial aid resources on students without financial need. And we’ll be updating our data website www.College-InSight.org so that students, parents, colleges, journalists, and policymakers can see colleges’ debt levels alongside myriad other information about those colleges, such as low-income enrollment, enrollment by race, or graduation rates, and even compare averages across states.

One thing our report will not include this year is a national average for bachelor’s degree completers.  While we receive new school-by-school debt figures annually, and use them to calculate state-level averages, the best available national average comes from a nationally representative federal study that is released every four years by the U.S. Department of Education (the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, or NPSAS). The next set of NPSAS data will cover students who graduated in the Class of 2016 – the same group of students that will be covered in our report – but the federal data aren’t expected to be available for several more months. 

Why are we planning to wait for NPSAS to publish a national average rather than estimating it based on data that schools voluntarily report to college guide publishers? Because we have consistently found that college-reported figures understate student debt levels. NPSAS provides the most comprehensive and reliable national estimate because it is based on a large, nationally representative sample of students, rather than on voluntarily reported data by colleges that participate in a private survey.  In years when we can make a direct comparison to NPSAS data, the college-reported figures understate average student debt at the national level by as much as eight percent compared to NPSAS, and the share of students borrowing by as much as 13 percent.  For example, the most recent NPSAS showed average debt for the Class of 2012 that was about $2,000 higher than the average based on college-reported data. This could be due to a number of factors, including missing data from many schools and the exclusion of private loans that colleges don’t know about. The same data flaws likely affect the state-level and school-level averages we calculate and publish as well, but we don’t have a better source for state-by-state and institutional figures. For a national average, though, we do, which is why we’re choosing to wait to publish a national average until we have more comprehensive and reliable data. Additionally, using the NPSAS data will allow us to include borrowing and debt levels for for-profit college graduates, which is not possible with available college-level data because almost no for-profit colleges voluntarily report their data to other surveys.

To find out when we release Student Debt and the Class of 2016 and update www.College-InSight.org, sign up for our mailing list

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In March, we showed what it would mean for students if the House Republicans acted on their proposal to eliminate all mandatory Pell Grant funding. Republicans on the House Budget Committee are expected to include this extreme cut in their FY18 Budget this week. In response, we’ve updated our analyses with the latest data from the Department of Education and Congressional Budget Office (CBO). New data show the same grim story: eliminating mandatory funding threatens the existence of the Pell Grant as we know it, putting higher education out of reach for millions of Americans who rely on the grant to attend and complete college.

It’s worth repeating that mandatory funding currently pays for $1,060 of the current maximum Pell Grant (almost one fifth of the $5,920 grant in school year 2017-18), which already covers the lowest share of the cost of attending college in over 40 years.  

Eliminating mandatory funding would cut $78.5 billion from Pell Grants over ten years. For FY18 alone, mandatory funding provides $7.5 billion for Pell Grants, which is equivalent to the average Pell Grant award for two million students—over one in four students projected to receive Pell Grants in 2018. This is the same number of Pell Grant recipients attending college in Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio combined.

The May FY17 spending agreement already cut $1.3 billion from Pell Grants, and the House FY18 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill now under consideration includes an additional $3.3 billion cut (a move echoing the President’s own request in the Administration’s FY18 Budget Proposal). Eliminating mandatory funding on top of cutting $4.6 billion from Pell Grants would undermine the program’s current solid fiscal footing, abruptly creating a funding gap that would increase each year and require cuts to grant amounts, recipients or both.

If Congress cuts $3.3 billion from Pell Grants and eliminates the $7.5 billion in mandatory funding for FY18, simultaneous cuts to grant amounts and/or eligibility would be necessary to avoid a $2.9 billion funding gap that would immediately appear. Even if Congress rejects the $3.3 billion cut, eliminating mandatory funds in FY18 would lead to a $7 billion Pell Grant funding gap the next year (FY19). To close that gap, Congress would have to eliminate grants entirely for 1.9 million students or cut all students’ grants by an average of over $900, or both eliminate and cut grant amounts.

This brazen plan to create a funding crisis that could only be resolved by making severe cuts to Pell Grants is a clear assault on low-income students’ access to higher education. Rather than put college and a career further out of reach for millions of Americans, Congress should be safeguarding and investing in Pell Grants.

Graphics provided by Young Invincibles

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The House FY2018 budget resolution is expected to advance the President’s proposal to eliminate subsidized Stafford loans that go to students with financial need. With subsidized loans, interest does not accrue while students are in school, for six months after they leave school, during active-duty military service, and for up to three years of unemployment or other economic hardship. The billions of dollars in savings from ending subsidized loans for new students would not be used to make college more affordable. Instead, this proposed rollback would be exacerbated by other dramatic cuts to programs that help students afford college and repay their loans.

Eliminating subsidized loans would increase the cost of college by thousands of dollars for many of the six million undergraduates who receive those loans each year.* The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently estimated that eliminating subsidized loans would add $23.4 billion in costs to students over 10 years.

The charts below illustrate how much more a student would have to pay if subsidized loans are eliminated and the student borrows the same amount in unsubsidized loans instead. The calculations assume the student starts school in 2018-19, borrows the maximum subsidized student loan amount ($23,000), and graduates in five years.

Using the most recent CBO interest rate projections (from June 2017), eliminating subsidized loans would cause this student to enter repayment with $3,650 in additional debt due to accrued interest charges. As a result, she would end up paying $4,700 (16%) more over 10 years and $6,600 (16%) more if she repaid over 25 years.

The added costs to students would be even higher if interest rates increase faster than current projections. If the undergraduate Stafford loan interest rate hits the statutory cap of 8.25%, eliminating subsidized loans would cause this student to enter repayment with $5,700 in additional debt due to accrued interest charges. As a result, she would end up paying $8,350 (25%) more over 10 years and $13,450 (25%) more if she repaid over 25 years.

At a time where there is growing public concern about rising student debt and broad consensus on the importance of higher education and postsecondary training to the US economy, we need to be doing more, not less, to keep college within reach for all Americans.  For more information on TICAS’ proposals to streamline and improve federal student loans, see our summary of recommendations and our recent report, Make it Simple, Keep it Fair: A Proposal to Streamline and Improve Income-Driven Repayment of Federal Student Loans.

Note: This borrower would only be eligible for a 25-year repayment plan if she borrowed unsubsidized Stafford loans in addition to subsidized Stafford loans and entered repayment with more than $30,000 in debt. The most recent data show that almost four in five (79%) undergraduates with subsidized loans also have unsubsidized loans.

*January 2018 Note: This figure refers to the 2015-16 award year. The most recent data file from Department of Education also includes information for the 2016-17 year, but the data were released shortly after that award year closed and we have found that student loan volume data tend to get substantially revised after the first and second releases.

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The Institute for College Access & Success and ACCT, in collaboration with the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office examine the effect financial aid and assessment policy have on graduation and transfer rates.

This post originally appeared on the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) blog

By Debbie Cochrane, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS)

Earlier this year, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) and ACCT, in collaboration with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), set out to explore community college students’ rates of transfer and graduation, and how those rates differed by students’ financial status (both their own ability to pay for college and the amount of financial aid they receive).  This effort was an attempt to expand upon the CCCCO’s Student Success Scorecard efforts, which track first-time students’ success at reaching particular academic milestones but have not included factors related to students’ financial status.  In line with other work on student success and financial status, we found that students with less ability to pay graduated and transferred at lower rates than those with more financial cushion, but that financial aid helped to close the gap.

Our findings also shed interesting light on the importance of college assessment policy, and its particular significance to financial aid recipients. Three out of four California community college students in our sample attempted math or English coursework below transfer level at a CCC, signaling that they had been assessed as being unprepared for college-level coursework. The same is true for 81 percent of students who received a financial aid package that included a institutional fee waiver, Pell Grant, and state Cal Grant, which is particularly surprising given the academic merit standards students must meet to be eligible for a Cal Grant. Eligibility for Cal Grants, the primary state grant aid program in California, requires having a minimum high school grade point average (GPA) of 2.0. Most students’ grades far exceed this threshold: data from the California Student Aid Commission show that the average Cal Grant recipient at a community college has a GPA of 3.0.

The fact that developmental coursework was so prevalent among a group of students who have demonstrated academic merit raises questions. Is the alignment between high school and college curricula so disjointed that students who leave high school with a B average are truly not capable of succeeding in college-level work? Or is it the colleges’ assessment of students’ capabilities that is the issue, such that college-ready students are being placed into developmental coursework unnecessarily?

Indeed, research suggests that many students placed into developmental coursework could succeed in college-level courses, rendering the developmental coursework unnecessary. Importantly, students who take developmental coursework have lower odds of success, and those who do succeed take more time to graduate. In other words, overly aggressive placement of students into developmental coursework isn’t simply duplicative; it has the potential to derail students from reaching their academic goals.

These are particularly problematic issues for financial aid recipients, given strict limits on the number of years students can receive federal Pell Grants (six years) or state Cal Grants (four years).  And it isn’t just grant aid: in our study, 91 percent of students receiving an aid package including a federal student loan had taken developmental coursework. Given these students’ need to repay loans after they leave college, it is particularly important that unnecessary barriers, such as overly aggressive placement into developmental coursework, are removed to increase students’ odds of graduating or transferring.

Within California, developmental placement policies have undergone reforms in recent years, but more remains to be done. A bill currently working its way through the Legislature, AB 705 (Irwin), would require that colleges consider high school performance when determining whether students need remediation. However, whether driven by state policy or not, college leaders must ensure that their own institutional policies do not place students into developmental coursework unnecessarily, causing undue hardship for their most vulnerable students. TICAS and ACCT strongly encourage colleges to use multiple measures – including high school transcripts and test scores – to assess students in order to reduce the likelihood of placing students into developmental coursework unnecessarily. Colleges can also ensure that students receive the targeted support and counseling they need after being placed into developmental coursework, so they understand their progression out of remediation and into – and through – a program of study. These steps will help all students to succeed, and particularly the financial aid recipients for whom the stakes are particularly high.

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