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UNM wants fewer in remedial classes

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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico wants to ease out of teaching remedial classes to freshmen and instead make sure students are prepared for college work before they enroll, academic officials said Tuesday.

UNM asked about 50 students who plan to enroll as freshmen this fall to take “bridge classes” this summer to help them prepare for college-level classes.

Bridge classes were voluntary this summer. But next year, UNM plans to make the summer classes mandatory for students who fail to attain a minimum score on college-entrance exams.

“We’re asking them to get a head start in their preparation over the summer,” said Terry Babbitt, UNM’s associate vice president for enrollment management. Summer course work “gives them an early start. It gets them acclimated to college courses.”

The ultimate goal of the summer bridge program is to trim the number of students who must take remedial classes as freshmen, said UNM Provost Abdallah Chaouki.

More than a third of UNM freshmen – about 35 percent – require at least one remedial class.

UNM and many other universities across the country have found that students who require remedial classes as freshmen start at a disadvantage that many students never overcome, Chaouki said.

The six-year graduation rate is about 20 percent for students who needed remedial classes as freshmen, he estimated.

“Ultimately, I think, remediation the way it is today is not working,” Chaouki said. UNM modeled its summer bridge program on similar programs at other universities that have reported successes in boosting freshman success, he said.

UNM expects a bumper crop of freshmen this fall. Based on incomplete registration data on Friday, UNM expects at least a 3 percent increase. The university enrolled about 3,400 freshmen in fall 2012.

Summer bridge courses, typically English or math courses offered at the UNM main campus, a branch campus or a community college, offers students credits that they can use toward a college degree, Babbitt said.

Next year, entering freshmen who scored 17 or lower on the ACT college admission test will be required to take summer bridge courses, Babbitt said. The requirement would affect about 200 freshmen, he estimated.

By 2015, UNM plans to require students who score 18 or below on the ACT to take summer bridge courses, he said.

UNM bases its admission standards on a formula that includes the student’s ACT score and high school grade-point average.

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