The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.


A new school year brings nervousness, excitement and expectation. But for more than one in four beginning college students, that’s about to slam into a harsh reality:

The Topic: Students arriving unprepared for collegeWhy It Matters: The persistent problem now costs $7 billion a year—and the degree aspirations of countless students who drop out.

They’ll find out they’re not considered ready to start college-level work in math or English, and be detoured into so-called remedial courses to bring them up to speed.

These courses don’t count toward the credits needed to graduate, are covered by financial aid only up to a limited number of hours, and cost the country a collective $7 billion. Students who end up in them have a worse chance of eventually graduating than their classmates who don’t have to take them. *

The impact is worst for low-income students who come from urban public high schools that do a poor job of preparing them. And the problem persists in spite of years of work to fix it.

Read and hear a comprehensive collection of stories about this issue, the policies that make it worse, and potential solutions, a collaboration between The Hechinger Report and the investigative and documentary arm of American Public Media, APM Reports.

* This story has been changed to reflect that financial aid covers only a limited numbers of hours of remedial courses.

The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers. But that doesn't mean it's free to produce. Our work keeps educators and the public informed about pressing issues at schools and on campuses throughout the country. We tell the whole story, even when the details are inconvenient. Help us keep doing that.

Join us today.

Letters to the Editor

At The Hechinger Report, we publish thoughtful letters from readers that contribute to the ongoing discussion about the education topics we cover. Please read our guidelines for more information. We will not consider letters that do not contain a full name and valid email address. You may submit news tips or ideas here without a full name, but not letters.

By submitting your name, you grant us permission to publish it with your letter. We will never publish your email address. You must fill out all fields to submit a letter.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *