Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Remedial Class Cuts Criticized
By James Monteleone
Journal Staff Writer
Some community college leaders in New Mexico say the governor's proposal to cut back remedial education classes is shortsighted and could limit some students' chances of getting a college degree.
Gov. Susana Martinez has recommended cutting the classes, some of which teach basic math and writing fundamentals, because the state already is paying for that course work at the high school level. Funding the courses again at the college level would mean the state is double funding the basics, the Martinez administration has said.
Included in Martinez's proposed $722 million higher education budget are plans to cut about $5 million from remedial courses, meaning fewer classes would be available at colleges and universities around the state. The cut represents about 20 percent of what New Mexico spends on remedial classes.
"During the campaign, the governor talked extensively about the need to prepare our students better for college," Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said. Remedial education "is basically the state paying a second time for these courses, in many respects."
But college leaders say not all who enroll in remedial courses are high school students who didn't understand the course material senior year. Rather, many are adults who are returning to school because they are changing careers and need refresher courses.
Expecting that demand for remedial education classes will continue to grow next year, the governor's cut is trying to head off any increased spending, Darnell said. Rather than a long term policy, the proposal is seen as a temporary fix during tough budget times, he said.
It's already difficult to get into high-demand basic courses, such as math and writing, and state cuts could make it even harder, said Kamie Hopper, 32. Hopper is taking a high school level algebra course at Central New Mexico Community College as a refresher before pursuing more difficult courses for an accounting degree.
"I don't want to feel left behind," she said.
Hopper began her degree at CNM last year after losing her job as a restaurant manager. It's been 13 years since she studied math in high school.
At CNM, more than 8,700 students were enrolled in at least one remedial class last fall. Adults out of high school for at least seven years represent 39 percent of those students.
Without the basics, returning students like Hopper simply aren't prepared for classes required in a college degree program. That hurdle will mean fewer college graduates in New Mexico, CNM math professor Feliciano Otero said.
Statewide, about 15 percent of courses at community colleges are remedial, according to the New Mexico Independent Community Colleges association.