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College-Level Statistics with Corequisite Supports Best Option for Students, Study Finds

October 13, 2021|By Alison Kothe

“College students are college students. They deserve to be treated as such from the moment they arrive on campus.”

Daniel Douglas, Trinity College, is clear about his view of postsecondary developmental education. As lead author of the newly released brief Community College Students Assessed as Needing Mathematics Remediation: Seven-Year Impacts of Corequisite Remediation with Statistics, which follows two prior published studies, Douglas knows that traditional remediation is not helping college students succeed. The seven-year analysis shows that students in a college-level statistics course with corequisite supports fared better than their peers in every measure.

The analysis focused on students taking a traditional remedial mathematics course (elementary algebra), those taking a traditional remedial math course with corequisite supports, and those taking a college-level statistics course with corequisite supports. The students in the college-level statistics course with corequisite supports attained their associate’s degree and bachelor’s degrees sooner and earned higher wages than their peers.

“Corequisites were very new when we first began this study in fall 2013,” said co-author Alexandra W. Logue, The City University of New York (CUNY). “But what we’ve been finding over the last seven years—along with others—is clear. Students taking a college-level mathematics course coupled with corequisite supports succeed in earning their associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in higher proportions than those in other developmental course options.”

graph of data from the analysis
In this graph from the newly released brief, the blue lines represent students in the college-level statistics course with corequisite supports (labeled as Stat-WS), while the red lines represent the students in the traditional remedial elementary algebra course (labeled as Elem Alg).

Importantly, these findings were not measurably different based on a student’s race, gender, or if they were a Pell grant recipient. 

“Given that we’ve found no differences due to race, ethnicity, or economic status in our findings,” continued Logue, “implementing this change in community colleges and other institutions of higher education would have a dramatic effect on decreasing common performance gaps.” 

Wages Rise for Students Taking Corequisites

This study looked at three outcomes for students: the proportion of each group who earned an associate’s degree, the proportion who earned a bachelor’s degree, and wage earnings in New York.

“Often studies like this only focus on degree attainment, but we thought it was important to look at wages, at the end payoff for students,” said Douglas. “In looking at the data, students in the college-level statistics course with corequisite supports are earning higher wages on average than the other students. Looking closer, we found that this was because those students—who were in a college-level course from the beginning—were able to attain their degrees earlier than other students. They were able to enter the workforce sooner, get the yield of their degree sooner, and therefore able to move up in salary sooner.” 

Time to degree is an important factor for students. In the CUNY system where this study was conducted, most students graduate debt-free. In other institutions, more time spent taking classes traditionally corresponds to more money spent and more debt taken on by the students.

The last year of the study was 2020. The pandemic did impact the data, and earnings went down in both groups during that last year. But earnings went down less for the group who had taken the college-level statistics course with corequisite supports. 

“Likely the fact that those students had already earned degrees, earned them faster, and been in the workforce longer left them more ‘recession-proof’ than the other students,” Douglas said. 2020 was the only year that income went down.    

Corequisite Supports as Normative Practice

The simple takeaway is that students who took the college-level course with corequisite supports earned more degrees, earned them faster, and in the end made more money.

Since this study began, corequisites have almost become a national movement based on the work of organizations like the Dana Center, Strong Start to Finish, Complete College America, Carnegie Math Pathways, and others. 

“This study has been vital in our understanding of corequisites because it addresses questions about what happens to students after they leave the corequisite courses,” said Amy Getz, Dana Center interim director of K–12 education. “Thousands of students are benefitting from corequisites every year, but many more are still being held back by outdated models.”

"The simple takeaway is that students who took the college-level course with corequisite supports earned more degrees, earned them faster, and in the end made more money,” said Douglas.

Developing and implementing corequisite supports is an important next step for two- and four-year institutions.

“This study makes the case that corequisite supports work better than prerequisites,” said co-author Mari Watanabe-Rose, CUNY. “Institutions no longer need to wonder if investing in corequisites will lead to improvements. We now know that they will, and changing the structure of developmental education from remedial course sequences to college-level courses with just-in-time corequisite supports will help students succeed and attain a degree.”

As more institutions adopt corequisites as normative practice, transfer and applicability policies and advising practices will also need to be adjusted. 

“If you think someone doesn’t know something, it can seem cruel to put them in a course that they would struggle in,” said Logue. “It seems kinder to put that student in a lower level or remedial course. One of my biggest takeaways from this work is that we’ve found that it is not a kindness. Students are less likely to succeed in remedial courses. If we let students take the college-level courses, giving them corequisite supports, we see in the data that these students will do better, that they will achieve more.”

Douglas agreed. “When we think of our students from a deficit-model—that they aren’t ready, they can’t do this work—we unintentionally feed in to a student’s negative view of themselves. It can be a form of subconscious bias and racism. When college students are treated like college students, with interventions like corequisite supports, they can succeed.”

The full brief is available for download and for use in further reporting. 

Download the Full Brief

Citation Information for the Full Brief

Douglas, D., Logue, A. W., & Watanabe-Rose, M. (2021, October). Community college students assessed as needing mathematics remediation: Seven-year impacts of corequisite remediation with statistics. Dana Center Mathematics Pathways Resource Site.

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About the Author

Alison Kothe

On long car trips, I used to do long division for fun. The more paper I could use for a single problem, the better. While my husband loves to tease me about this, I still find joy in solving problems using elegant strategies. As a communications professional here at the Dana Center, I infuse my love of mathematics into the stories I share.  

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