For every 100 students who are placed into traditional English and math remedial courses, typically only eight will graduate.
That grim statistic has motivated NSHE and UNLV to replace remedial courses in favor of corequisite courses beginning fall 2021.
Corequisite courses offer students additional instruction in tandem with required classes — such as English 101 and Math 120, Math 124, or Math 126, which are known as “gateway” classes. The corequisite courses allow students to complete the requirements in one semester, rather than spending a semester in remediation before they can attempt college-level classes.
Higher education officials say this approach reduces the time and money students who need the extra help must spend to stay on track and graduate.
“Student success is the fundamental core of our university,” said Chris Heavey, executive vice president and provost. “Corequisite courses provide students extra just-in-time support so that they can learn at the college level and move toward earning their degree right when they set foot on campus.”
The NSHE Board of Regents in June 2019 adopted the Corequisite and College-Ready Gateway Policy, eliminating remediation pathways, and requiring students to be enrolled in college-level English and math courses in their initial year of enrollment. The policy requires NSHE institutions to develop common pathways so students who complete their gateway math and English courses at Nevada community colleges can then transfer those required credits to UNLV or the University of Nevada, Reno.
“Implementing the policy is a system-level project that involves faculty, academic advising, admissions and orientation, and student affairs to better support the students in pursuit of a degree,” said Laurel Pritchard, vice provost for undergraduate education. She is UNLV’s administrative representative on the NSHE corequisite implementation taskforce.
On average, 25% of UNLV incoming freshmen, about 1,200 students, do not place into college-level math based on their ACT scores, Pritchard said.
UNLV officials assert the corequisite approach is well aligned with its Top Tier student achievement goal for first-year student retention. In 2019, UNLV’s freshman retention rate was 79.9%. The university hopes to see that increase to about 82% or higher by fall 2022.
The new policy along with instructional innovation is expected to benefit students across every major by helping them improve their writing and math skills without having to pay for multiple courses or face the risk of waning motivation that results from the remedial course sequence, Pritchard said.
“The new corequisite courses are designed to set high expectations for students and challenge them to meet learning outcomes,” said Jeffrey Orgera, associate vice provost for student success. He said that students in these courses receive extra help to improve their skills and competencies through workshops, interactive labs, collective work with peers, and individual support from faculty.
Elaine Bunker, associate director of composition in the English department, said UNLV has been leaning toward the corequisite approach for several years. In 2015, her department discontinued English 98, a preparatory composition class, and instead placed all students who needed additional support into an English 101E/F course. This program stretched English 101 into two semesters, giving students extra time to make up ground.
“We have long believed in bridges rather than barriers to student engagement in college-level curriculum,” Bunker said. “The new NSHE policy requires students to complete the entire gateway course in one semester, so we are creating one-credit labs for writing skills and critical reading. These will provide opportunities for students to preview, review, apply, and reflect on the skills that they are learning in English 101.”
The corequisite courses in math will replace Math 95 and 96 with a single five-credit course that will be equivalent to Math 120, 124, or 126.
“Even though we will cover several units in one course, the experience is designed to be seamless for the student,” said Bill Speer a professor and director of the Math Learning Center.
Corequisite instructional courses are designed for incoming freshmen and will be available to continuing students as needed. The new corequisite courses also are expected to further bolster the university’s efforts as a minority-serving institution.
“This initiative is well aligned with our mission to serve our diverse student communities by developing curricular innovations and resources that eliminate gaps and help more adults attain college degrees,” Orgera said.
UNLV’s latest enrollment census highlights its role as a federally designated Minority-Serving Institution, with 65 percent of students identifying as a racial or ethnic minority. The university also holds designations as an Asian-American, Native-American and Pacific Islander-Serving, and Hispanic-Serving institution. UNLV is among the most diverse campuses in the country, tied for second on the list with Andrews University in Michigan, just behind the University of Hawaii-Hilo in the U.S. News & World Report ranking for diverse universities.