OSHKOSH, Wis. – University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross today called for the University to raise the bar on its efforts to help college students who require remedial coursework to complete that work and succeed.

Addressing the Board of Regents at its Friday meeting in Oshkosh, Cross spelled out two ambitious goals for the University to address in the next five years. First, the University must help to reduce the number of incoming students who require remedial math coursework. Second, the University also must ensure that students who do require remedial education work in college actually complete it and in a timely fashion.

“For Wisconsin to reach its full economic potential, it is essential that we increase the number of college graduates in the state. For a variety of reasons, too many students are coming to college not fully prepared to succeed. This cannot be allowed to continue. Working with our educational partners around the state, we must do whatever is necessary to put more students on the talent path to success,” Cross said.

In addressing the first goal, the University will aim to cut by one-third the number of incoming students needing remedial math.  Currently, 21% of all freshmen entering the UW System require remedial math – already below the national average, which ranges between 25% and 35%. Cross aims to reduce that number for UW to 14%.

The University must collaborate more closely with the K-12 pipeline to achieve this reduction, Cross said, by making sure that all understand what college readiness really is. “We need to be better partners in making sure that expectations are clearly defined. It’s in all of our best interest to work together on this,” Cross said. “The time for splitting hairs about whose responsibility this might be is over. We need to get this done.”

In his second goal, Cross is calling for the University to increase by 15% the completion rate among students who require remedial math coursework. Currently, 66% of students requiring remedial math complete it in their first year of college. Cross said the new goal is that in five years, 76% of students requiring remedial math will complete it in their first year of college.

Cross noted there is a very strong correlation between completing remedial math work in the first year and improved second-year retention rates. Longer term, there is also a positive impact on graduation rates.

David J. Ward, UW System’s interim senior vice president for academic and student affairs, has engaged the provosts at all UW institutions to lead the way in the drive to improve success rates with students who require remedial work.

“If students can acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to bring them up to speed in a timely manner, that will ultimately decrease their time-to-degree and their college costs,” Ward said.

Ward also noted that remedial efforts must accommodate a broad spectrum of student backgrounds and needs, including both new high school graduates and returning adult students and others. “This is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and different and appropriate strategies must be identified and implemented,” Ward said.

Keys to meeting the new goals include employing evidence-based research, identifying clear action steps and providing periodic progress or accountability reports to the Board, Cross said.

Four UW institutions – UW-La Crosse, UW-Parkside, UW-Milwaukee, and UW Colleges – shared insights at Friday’s meeting on the different needs on their respective campuses as well as different approaches being used to address the issue.

Media Contact

John N. Diamond UW System (608) 263-7962 johndiamond@uwsa.edu