Developmental Education Reform

Minnesota’s college and universities need to prepare for POCI students, instead of requiring POCI students to meet the needs of a higher education system that wasn’t designed for them.

Reforming developmental education to center college completion

Developmental education is incredibly costly to students, especially Minnesota’s POCI students. Mounting evidence shows that traditional approaches for determining college “readiness” and requiring developmental education courses hinder student success.

Minnesota must consider the reality of who POCI students are, and not assume they are a typical college student from another era.”

When the Minnesota higher education system was designed, the typical student was young, single, white, 18-22 years old, and from a middle or higher income two-parent household.

This is another way structural racism continues to play out in Minnesota’s higher-ed systems, creating ongoing barriers to college access and completion and leaving POCI students out of opportunities to build a life they want and deserve.

What Minnesota can do right now

Minnesota’s lawmakers, colleges, and institutions must prioritize removing systemic barriers to college access and completion for Minnesota’s POCI students.

Invest in models that increase student access, retention, and degree attainment

Minnesota must reassess its costly developmental ed requirements and reinvest in evidence-informed models and holistic student supports like Guided Pathways, tutoring, student connections, and mental health supports that advance belonging and racial equity on college campuses.

Revise institutional policies for determining developmental ed placement

Minnesota lawmakers must advance a bill that allows state colleges or universities to use multiple measures for developmental ed assessment and determination, including GPA and SAT scores, as opposed to relying solely on Accuplacer scores to determine student placement.

What we can learn from students, and each other

Colleges and universities across the country are redefining what it means to center student success

What would it look like if we redesigned college math pathways?

College algebra continues to be a “gatekeeper” to college access and completion. Students should be provided with the right math program—such as data science or statistics—that promotes critical thinking and suits their fields of study and desired careers.

What happens when colleges broaden access to college-level courses?

Expanded access to transfer-level math and English courses through curricular reforms dramatically increases the chances that students of all racial/ethnic groups will successfully complete these courses.

What if we stopped relying on placement testing as a measure of student success?

Data from California is showing that by switching to multiple measures assessment (including GPA and self-guided placement), colleges are significantly expanding both access to and success in gatekeeper courses.

In Minnesota, several colleges are piloting multiple measures placement systems, and researchers are conducting a random assignment study to document the impact.

How can colleges eliminate equity gaps in outcomes that we see even in co-requisite models?

Co-requisite remediation has been shown to be more effective for all demographic groups, compared with traditional prerequisite models

However, rather than asking merely whether a remedial reform works for all students, a greater focus on equity may lead to a broader question: What more should be done for Black and Latinx students and those who have been historically marginalized in higher education?