In today’s labor market a bachelor’s degree is considered to be the minimum qualification to gain access
to the middle class. Because of this perception there is strong pressure from the current administration
to see that all students continue on to college. However, with increasing rates of admission, new college
students may have less academic preparation for college level coursework compared to prior students.
This portion of the study, The Effects of Institutional Practices on Postsecondary Trajectories –
Matriculation, Persistence and Time to Degree, seeks to assess the effectiveness of college remediation
programs on persistence and time to degree completion. Data from California State University –
Sacramento, which bases requirements for remedial coursework on an assessment with a strict cutoff, is
used. Employing a regression discontinuity design, outcomes of students on either side of the threshold
are observed and analyzed.
These students have been assigned to remedial work solely on the basis of test scores and it is
plausible that the students on either side of the threshold have similar unobservable characteristics. This
type of analysis allows the outcomes of the students to be attributed to the effect of the treatment
(remediation). By looking closely at these students just on either side of the pass/fail threshold we are
able to see how remedial coursework affects persistence and degree completion.
Understanding the effects of remedial courses on underprepared students is of increasing importance
for policy makers. Budget cuts are impacting institutions of higher education across the country and
evaluation of remedial programs will help policy makers determine whether or not they are a wise use of
increasingly limited funds. This study provides empirical evidence on the effects of remediation for these
students as well as an analysis of the effects of remediation on social inequality.
Additional contributor: Eric Grodsky (faculty mentor).
The Effects of Institutional Practices on Postsecondary Trajectories – Matriculation, Persistence and Time to Degree.
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