By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World
TOPEKA, KAN. ----- Sometimes state leaders complain about providing remedial education to college students, but a recent report says that basic instruction is crucial to the progress of thousands of Kansans and the state in general.
For many, remedial or developmental education provides a path to higher education and out of poverty, said Brian Inbody, president of Neosho County Community College.
"It is at the heart of the community college mission," Inbody recently told the Kansas Board of Regents.
"If you are ready to make a change in your life, we are going to meet where you are in your life. And if you can prove yourself, you can move on," he said.
Developmental education refers to coursework offered at a post-secondary institution that usually involves intermediate algebra, fundamentals of English or reading. Students usually enroll in the classes to prepare for more rigorous college-level courses.
In academic year 2010-2011, the most recent for which statistics are available, 38 percent of first-time, degree-seeking students attending Kansas community colleges enrolled in developmental courses during their first year at college. Seventeen percent of university students enrolled in developmental courses during their first year. The most common remedial course taken is math.
Developmental education is crucial for student success, Inbody said.
A typical community college class may include a mixture of recent high school graduates, older adults who haven't been in a classroom in more than 15 years, and students who scored low on the ACT.
Inbody said many students in community colleges are struggling to overcome poverty and haven't had the family supports that other college students have had.
"The idea of setting a goal of five years down the road to get into college is a foreign concept to a lot of families," he said.
Regents agreed with the need of developmental education to help increase the number of Kansans who have a post-secondary credential or degree.
"Too many people think developmental education is a dirty word. It's not," said Regents Chairman Fred Logan.
Community college officials are planning a more in-depth study of developmental education needs to be completed by June.
"If there are policy issues that need to be changed, please bring them forward," Regent Kenny Wilk told Inbody.
Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins said developmental education is key to helping people succeed. It would be easy to write off some of these students, but he said that wouldn't be right.
"We have set this system up where we do have a place where you can get into post-secondary education," he said.