By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer
As she seeks a career in physical therapy, Patricia Smith must get some developmental classes out of the way, but that’s okay with her.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in school,” said Smith, a 49-year-old freshman at Connors State College. “I went after a GED in 1995, and things have changed a lot since I’ve last been in school in 2004.”
Smith, a former Florida resident, used to work in the auto industry, but was laid off. Now, she’s changing careers. She said she’s taking CSC courses in developmental reading, developmental English and basic math as she returns to school.
Smith is like many Connors students taking developmental classes. Whether labeled as developmental, basic or remedial, these classes are geared for students needing extra help with college-level requirements.
Connors has more students taking such classes than other Oklahoma two-year colleges. Lyndsey Sullivan, CSC Director of College and Community Relations, said 72 percent of the school’s 720 first-time freshmen need remedial courses.
In 2011, Connors had the highest percentage of freshmen enrolled in remediation classes than any two-year college in Oklahoma. Figures from the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education showed Connors with 72.2 percent of its first time freshmen enrolled in remediation/developmental classes. Schools that came closest to Connors’ numbers were Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma City campus with 66 percent; Carl Albert State College with 65 percent; and Northeastern Oklahoma A & M with 63.8 percent.
The total percentage of students taking remedial classes in Oklahoma’s 14 community colleges was 56.3 in 2011.
Connors Vice President of Academic Affairs Ronald Ramming could not say why Connors had such a high rate of students compared with the rest of the state. When told about rates at NEO and Carl Albert, Ramming said, “We’re mainly looking at an area with a lower socio-economic level.”
As a result, the area has a lower percentage of people going to college, he said.
Ramming said the percentage of Connors students has been in the 70 to 80 percentile range for several years.
“Sure, it’s high, and we would like for it to be lower,” Ramming said. “We’re being challenged to work with public schools on how to address this issue.”
However, many Connors students are not fresh out of high school.
“I know our average age is 27.1, so that shows we have a lot of non-traditional students,” Sullivan said.
She said incoming freshmen are “split about 50-50” percent between traditional and non-traditional students.
“If they’ve been away from school for a while, they don’t have the reading, writing and arithmetic,” Ramming said. “If you don’t practice, over time, those skills are going to erode.”
Getting back into studying and other school habits has been a challenge, Smith said. The last time she took classes was at a technical school in 2004, when she was seeking a degree in X-ray technology.
“They didn’t cover general education,” the way Connors does, Smith said.
Muskogee freshman Linda Hall said she’s taking basic classes in reading and English.
“I’m not a reader, never was a good reader,” Hall said as she pored over a literature book at CSC’s west campus. “That’s why I’m taking this English class.”
Hall, who is seeking to be a registered nurse, said she wished she would have studied harder when she was in school.
“They say you’re never too old to learn, and I’m going to be 59 at my next birthday,” she said.
Smith and Hall spent part of Tuesday undergoing tutoring at the College Success Center at Connors’ West Campus. The centers are geared to helping students with tutoring, workforce placement or transfers to other colleges.
Placement in a developmental class is based on how students score on assessments. ACT scores are used for traditional students out of high school, Ramming said.
“If they do not have a high enough score, we give them a placement test,” Ramming said.
That test is Compass, administered through the ACT program. Compass identifies subject areas where students are strong or might need help.
“Compass helps us put students in the appropriate class,” Ramming said.
Seminole State College had about 56.6 percent of its first-year freshmen taking developmental classes in 2011, said Lana Reynolds, vice president for institutional advancement.
Most of the students were taking remedial math, she said.
“But some of them are taking more than one class.”
Seminole also has a high number of nontraditional students. Brad Walck, vice president of student affairs, said the average age of students at Seminole is older than 30.
Tulsa Community College, which serves a mostly urban population, had 57.9 percent of its first-year freshmen on remedial courses.
Two-year colleges, or community colleges, tend to have more students in remedial classes than four-year colleges, said Ben Hardcastle, director of communications for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. He said the community colleges are “open access” colleges, which do not require minimum ACT or SAT score for admission.
“That increases the number of students needing remediation,” Hardcastle said.
The total percentage of first-time freshmen taking remedial classes in Oklahoma’s 11 regional universities in 2011 was 39.4, according to figures from the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education.
The figures show about half the freshmen at Northeastern State University took remedial classes.
“In a typical fall, where our incoming freshmen class hovers around 1,000, approximately 400 to 500 students (40 to 50 percent) will need some form of remediation,” said Jeff Walker, NSU director of First-Year Experience. The percentage is higher in the spring semester.
Walker said the percentage has remained “relatively consistent over the past several years.”
Walker said most of these students were deficient in math, while others also had deficiencies in English and reading.
Most of the students requiring remediation are freshmen, Walker said.
“Because of the State Regents for Higher Ed remediation policy that requires students to remediate before they complete 24 hours of college credit, not too many of our upperclassmen students have the need for remediation.”
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remediation/Developmental enrollment 2010-2011
College Freshmen Remediation enrollment Percentage
• Connors 740 534 72.2
• Eastern Oklahoma State College 554 319 57.6
• Murray State College 749 431 57.5
• NEO A&M 831 530 63.8
• Northern Oklahoma College 1,286 761 59.2
• Tulsa Community College 5,016 2,903 57.9
• Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City 1,281 846 66.0
• Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology 1,096 465 42.4
• Western Oklahoma State College 467 261 55.9
• Redlands Community 522 215 41.2
• Carl Albert State College 632 411 65.0
• Seminole State College 633 358 56.6
• Rose State College 2,168 1,286 59.3
• Oklahoma City Community College 3,474 1,622 46.7
Total Community 19,449 10,942 56.3
• East Central University 674 279 41.4
• Northeastern State University 1,250 629 50.3
• Northwestern Oklahoma State University 442 220 49.8
• Southeast Oklahoma State University 684 284 41.5
• Southwestern Oklahoma State University 1,011 443 43.8
• Cameron University 1,062 705 66.4
• Langston University 490 421 85.9
• University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma 219 56 25.6
• Oklahoma Panhandle State University 287 189 65.9
• Rogers State University 876 480 54.8
Total Regional Universities 9,395 3,706 39.4
• University of Oklahoma 3,724 459 12.3
• Oklahoma State University. 3,651 86 2.4
Total Research 7,375 545 7.4
Source: Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education.