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Are college remedial classes a waste of money?

By Paul Nelson | Posted - May 6, 2014 at 8:52 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Are community colleges short-changing students? Recently, one group has criticized the community college system, saying many remedial classes are a bridge to nowhere. Local colleges are trying to change that.

In an article by the Associated Press, officials with the group Complete College America were reported as saying remedial classes are a financial drain on students. The group said too many students run out of financial aid money while they complete classes that really can’t be plied to their degree.

Salt Lake Community College director of public relations Joy Tlou says the group has a point, if it's describing colleges that operate under a traditional system.

“They definitely take extra time, they cost extra money and they don’t yield college credit,” Tlou said.

But he also said SLCC is taking strides away from a traditional course system. Take, for example, its math classes.

“Traditionally, we would look at a student and say, ‘You need three semesters of developmental math.’ But we can look at them now and say, ‘This might only take you part or half of a semester,’ ” Tlou said.

"We would look at a student and say, 'You need three semesters of developmental math.' (Now we) say, 'This might only take you part or half of a semester.' - Joy Tlou

He said SLCC offers an Accuplacer exam that judges students by their skill sets and not just how many credits they’ve completed.

“We build on those. We meet them where they’ve left off, or where they are right now,” Tlou said.

He said the school offers an ongoing class with roaming teachers and lab assistants who are there to help students master what they have to learn in order to test into the right math class at the university level.

“Students really have a number of options that they can exercise that save time, save money and that apply to degrees,” he said.

Tlou said classes like these are especially good for students who didn’t go to college right after high school and may have forgotten some of the things they were taught.

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