Innovations in Developmental Education Reap Significant Gains for Students

Improvements have saved students an estimated $15.6 million in tuition and fees in 2016 alone

Enrollment in developmental education courses at the colleges and universities of Minnesota State has been significantly reduced over the past five years, cutting the cost of higher education and trimming the time it takes to complete a degree for thousands of students.

Developmental education plays a critical role in ensuring academic success by enabling students to address gaps in their knowledge.  Developmental education classes include precollege-level reading, writing, math, and English as a Second Language courses, as well as topics and services such as personal development, academic development, and interventions that are designed to grow student skills.  These classes are offered for credit, and students are able to use financial aid to assist in covering course tuition and fees, but these credits do not count toward degrees, diplomas or certificates.

Minnesota State has redesigned developmental education curriculum and support services to reduce the time and money needed to be college ready.  This has resulted in the reduction of college students enrolled in developmental courses by 18,414 – from 23.5 percent of college headcount in 2012 to 15.4 percent of college headcount in 2016.  Among all 37 state colleges and universities, full year equivalent (FYE) enrollment in developmental education courses as a proportion of overall enrollment has declined by nearly a third, and represented only 4.2% of overall FYE enrollment in 2016. Overall, this reduction has saved students an estimated $15.6 million in tuition and fees during the academic year 2015-2016 alone.

The curriculum and support services redesign is getting students into their college-level courses more quickly and effectively with innovative programs including:

  • Accelerated approaches that are providing compressed or fast-track schedules where students can complete two sequenced courses within one semester, combining courses that were previously separate classes, and/or creating co-requisite courses that can be completed in one semester instead of two.
  • Offering pathways in mathematics that focus preparation on the needs of specific programs or areas of study.
  • Improving academic and student support strategies such as adopting early alert systems that allow academic and support interventions earlier, requiring academic advising, adding peer and/or professional tutoring into classes, and increasing the amount of academic support.
  • Working with K-12 partners to improve practice and curriculum alignment and ensure that more high school students graduate college-ready.

These improvements are key to addressing educational disparities among students from communities traditionally underrepresented in higher education. In the academic year 2015-2016, students who took developmental education courses were more likely to be first generation college students, almost twice as likely to be Pell eligible, and more than twice as likely to be students of color.

“Improvements to developmental education are critical to eliminating disparities, improving student success, and reducing the cost of higher education,” said Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of Minnesota State. “We are very proud of these improvements and look forward to continuing our work with our K-12 partners as we strive to make additional gains.”