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Analyst finds high remedial rates at community colleges

February 16, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Based on dropout figures and the number of first-year students who need remedial courses, a budget analyst is advising lawmakers that new measures are needed to monitor progress in the state's community colleges.

Statewide, nearly 70 percent of all first-year high school graduates entering community colleges during the 2002-2003 school year needed remediation in math, reading or English, according to a report prepared by budget analyst Henriot St. Gerard for the Senate Budget and Taxation Subcommittee on Education, Business and Administration.

The number enrolled at Hagerstown Community College was higher than the state average, at 71.7 percent - the sixth highest number among the state's 16 community colleges.

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Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, called that "an unacceptably high rate." He said the need for remediation "points out the need for Thornton (a formula for adding money to public education) and it points out the need for slots."

Gov. Robert Ehrlich has tied his effort to legalize slot machine gambling in Maryland to increased aid for education.

Munson said the remediation needs also show the need for provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"I am disappointed that they're that high," Munson said, adding that he hopes public school officials will take note.

"The General Assembly has been concentrating on education for several years now," he said. "Obviously we still have a long way to go."

He noted that students entering community college in Montgomery County, which traditionally spends more per student than in any other jurisdiction in the state, required remediation at a higher rate, 72.9 percent, than at HCC.

The report also showed HCC with the sixth highest dropout rate - at 57.7 percent - but noted that the Maryland Higher Education Commission said dropout rates are not a true indicator of community colleges' success.

There are a couple of reasons for that, the commission said. One is that more students are enrolling at community colleges for reasons other than earning degrees. Another is an inability to track students who transfer to institutions outside the University System of Maryland.

Henriot is recommending that lawmakers approve Ehrlich's $191.6 million budget allowance for aid to community colleges in fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1. Of that, HCC stands to receive a little more than $5.3 million, which is an 8 percent increase from this year.

Munson had high praise for the staff at HCC. "The community college does an outstanding job," he said, adding that the school "is overcoming some of the deficits of the public schools."

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