Tennessee Board of Regents Co-Requisite Remediation Model Produces Giant Leaps in Student Success in Math and English

A new approach to remediation is dramatically increasing the number of students successfully completing their first college-level English and math courses at colleges and universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.

Known as a “co-requisite” approach, the new model places students in supplemental learning support classes while also enrolling them in their first credit-bearing courses. In a 2014 pilot program conducted at nine of the state’s 13 community colleges, the system saw completion rates for college math jump from 12 percent to 61 percent, and from 31 to 64 percent for English.

“This is undoubtedly a vast improvement over the traditional structure of remedial classes,” said Tristan Denley, vice chancellor of Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents. “What’s even more encouraging is we are finding these improvements are consistent across the board for all students regardless of their initial ACT scores, age, gender or race.”

Many in higher education have noted that a new strategy for remediation was sorely needed. Numerous freshman arrive for their first semesters of college unprepared for college-level work and need to enhance their skills to be successful in college. Traditionally, those students were placed in remedial classes – which are not credit-bearing – and are required to complete those course before being allowed to start earning college credits. As a result, it could take an entire year for a student to earn their first college credits, and many would never make it to their first credit-bearing course at all.

“What we often find is that the longer it takes to get to credit-bearing courses, the more likely life will get in the way and interrupt their progress toward a degree,” said Denley. “Not to mention, many of these students arrive excited about going to college only to be told they aren’t really college material. It can be a bit defeating and easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

After the pilot’s success, TBR took the co-requisite model system-wide, implementing it at all 13 community colleges and six universities. After one semester, the numbers were still overwhelmingly strong with 51 percent completing their first college math course and 58 percent completing English.

“You expect to see some change going from a pilot to system-wide implementation,” Denley said. “The pilot was about 1,000 students, and now we are looking at 10,000. But we are still seeing that this model produces similar results for students at all levels.”

Dr. Denley indicated that TBR would continue to dissect the data to identify areas that may need attention and to drive success rates even higher. “Our ultimate mission remains student success. While it is tremendously exciting to see these results, there will always be room for further improvement,” Denley said. “For example, we’ll examine individual institutions, and if one is having demonstrably better results, we can try to figure out why and then share those best practices with other campuses in our system.”

Besides helping students be successful in their studies, the new model may lead to better student retention, which means more students would ultimately earn degrees. “Early data is showing good retention among these students who complete these courses,” Denley said. “They gain the confidence that they can perform at a college level and build momentum as they continue in their studies.”

TBR’s success with the co-requisite model was recently highlighted in a national report by Complete College America. The report, titled Corequisite Remediation: Spanning the Completion Divide, featured five states which all experienced similar results after implementing the co-requisite approach. The full report is available at www.completecollege.org/spanningthedivide/.  


Inside Higher Ed -- Progress on Remediation
Education Dive -- Five states see striking progress with corequisite remediation model
Knoxville News-Sentinel -- Pellissippi State sees success in new approach to remedial classes

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.