Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee


Johanna Duncan-Poitier




Implementation of the Statewide Plan for Higher Education: Recommendations Relating to College Admissions Practices and Remedial/Developmental Courses


January 23, 2007


Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Discussion


Is there a need to clearly define or better differentiate remedial and developmental coursework from credit bearing coursework in New York State colleges? Is there a need to strengthen admissions policies, especially for students who enter college without a high school diploma or GED? Is accurate information being provided to students regarding vocational job placement and/or the transferring of college credits?


Reason(s) for Consideration


Implementation of Regents policy.

Proposed Handling


At the February meeting of the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee, the Committee will discuss in greater detail the policy recommendations endorsed in May 2006 relating to remedial/developmental coursework and strengthening of admissions policies in the Stateís colleges and determine next steps.


Background Information


In January 2006, the Board of Regents Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee requested that the Department provide the Committee with a comprehensive report on the process by which proprietary colleges are approved and regulated in New York State.  This report was presented in response to the Boardís concerns about poor educational practices and possible fraudulent practices at proprietary institutions both in and outside of New York State. In May 2006, the requested report was presented to the Committee. The report included five recommendations for actions that would help to ensure that all students enrolled in proprietary colleges can expect to receive a quality education as well as strengthening some admissions policies in all higher education sectors. In December 2006, the Regents enacted regulations that implemented the first two recommendations designed to strengthen the oversight of proprietary colleges in New York State to ensure high standards of quality.  Consistent with the Regents recommendations, those regulations:


1.      Require a transition period before new higher education institutions in New York State are given final authority to award degrees to ensure that standards of quality are upheld and students are appropriately served at proprietary colleges during periods of transition. This recommendation would also limit any expansion during the provisional period.


2.      Require that the sale of degree-granting proprietary institutions in New York State be approved by the Education Department prior to purchase and that the new owners demonstrate capacity to meet the education and fiscal standards to operate the institution before ownership is established. Regents approval of the transfer of degree-granting authority to the new institution and/or owner will still be required.


            The third recommendation endorsed by the Regents in May 2006 is being addressed as part of the Regents 2007 Legislative package and does not require any regulatory amendments.  It states:


Endorse the pursuit of a legislative strategy to enhance the capacity to monitor the proprietary sector to ensure high standards of educational quality, protect the publicís investment, and to take action in cases where institutions are out of compliance and students could be at risk.


            Recommendations 4 and 5, which relate to remedial coursework and admissions policies at all higher education institutions in New York State, are the subject of this report and discussion.   Those recommendations are:


          Recommendation #4: Clearly define and differentiate remedial and developmental coursework from credit bearing college coursework to ensure that students are appropriately prepared to succeed and to graduate.


          Recommendation #5: Strengthen admissions policies. Ensure prospective college students, especially those without a high school diploma or GED, have accurate information on the college, job placement and/or transfer opportunities necessary to make educated enrollment decisions.


The Regents indicated that they would have additional discussion and ask for additional input on implementing these recommendations. Included in this report are a number of issues the Board may wish to consider. 




It is recommended that the Department convene representatives of all four sectors of the higher education community to consider these issues and to advance to the Department for Regents consideration possible strategies to implement the Regents recommendations set forth in May 2006.


Timetable for Implementation


After the Regents complete their discussion, and the Department has had the opportunity to confer with the higher education community, we expect to return to the Regents in late spring with specific comments to implement recommendations four and five from the May 2006 Regents report.



Ensuring High Standards of Quality



Over the last few years, the Department has implemented a risk analysis approach to oversight of postsecondary institutions to focus on low-performing institutions. With limited resources, we need to provide as much assistance as possible to students who are educationally and financially at risk of not completing their collegiate program. As we proceeded with this risk analysis, we began to look at institutions with certain factors, including, but not limited to: rapid change in enrollment, low graduation and/or persistence rates, multiple student complaints, sudden and unanticipated changes in the proportion of students receiving State and federal aid, the proportion of students admitted through the ability-to-benefit provision, and indexing the tuition to the amount of State and federal aid available to the student.


The concern is to protect the educational and financial interest of students. Students who are educationally at risk need additional support to be successful and, absent that support, are in greater jeopardy of dropping out of school. Students eligible for financial aid only have one chance to receive TAP awards. If they are not successful on their first attempt, the funds are not restored and they lose their opportunity for an affordable college education in New York. The following highlights ways in which we have become more aggressive in ensuring quality. For example:


          We have employed undercover operatives at institutions to determine whether students are being given honest and clear information on both their collegiate program and on financial aid.


          We have conducted full peer reviews with up to eight to ten college faculty and administrators to determine whether certain institutions are fulfilling their educational mission and whether the programs indeed are college level and worthy of college credit.


          We have instituted enrollment caps on those institutions that, in our judgment, are substantially out of compliance for operating a degree-granting institution in the State. We have also instituted performance targets for these institutions to force them to either improve, or close their doors.


          Finally, we will close institutions as we did recently with Taylor Business Institute, if it is the judgment of the Department and the Regents that they have not met their educational mission to their students.


At your December 2006 meeting, the Board enacted new regulations directly related to the operation and sale of for-profit colleges. These regulations, which implement two of the five recommendations the Board endorsed in May 2006, will help ensure that the educational needs of students will remain the primary concern as the Department approves and regulates for-profit institutions in New York State.


At your May 2006 meeting, the Board endorsed two additional recommendations (Recommendations #4 and #5) affecting all sectors of higher education:


          Clearly define and differentiate remedial and developmental coursework from credit-bearing college coursework to ensure all students are appropriately prepared to succeed and to graduate.


          Strengthen admissions policies. Ensure prospective college students, especially those without a high school diploma or GED, have accurate information on the college, job placement, and/or transfer opportunities necessary to make educated enrollment decisions.


There is too much at stake to allow institutions that are not successful in meeting their educational mission to continue to operate in that fashion. The Regents are working to close the performance gap for all students in K-16. If an institution wishes to serve students who are educationally and economically at-risk, it will be critically important that it provides these students with the appropriate educational and support systems necessary to be successful. It will be this connection between studentsí knowledge and skills and the support provided by that institution that may need to be strengthened.



Issues for Further Consideration


            As the Regents discuss the topic of admissions policies and remedial/developmental courses, there are a number of issues that will inform this policy discussion:


          As the Statewide Plan indicates, students with strong high school performance as measured by their grade point averages and SAT/ACT scores have a higher rate of success in college.


          There is a wide disparity in graduation rates between minority students and White/Asian students. The Stateís opportunity programs (SEEK/CD, EOP and HEOP) help to remove that disparity for students participating in these programs.  Should the opportunity programs serve as models for providing academic support to disadvantaged students?


          Academic visits by Department staff have confirmed that students without a high school diploma or GED (commonly referred to Ability-to-Benefit (ATB) students) have the greatest difficulty doing college work and persisting in a college program.


          Risk analysis visits by Department staff have reinforced that, even if a college requires a high school diploma or GED for admission, many lower performing students still struggle in their academic program and may drop out without appropriate supports. Performance as measured by graduation rates may be an important indicator to identify institutions that have a disconnect between admissions requirements and academic support. 


          In New York State, approximately 15 percent of students attending four-year institutions will take at least one remedial or developmental course and approximately 40 percent of students attending two-year institutions will take at least one remedial or developmental course. How do remedial/developmental courses fit into admission decisions?


          Does an institution have a system in place to assess the effectiveness of its academic support services? Is there evidence that data from assessments is used for program improvement?


          Do students have access to appropriately educated admissions counselors and recruiters to guide them in making both academic and financial decisions?


          Should admissions tests used to qualify students for financial aid be the same tools that a college uses to determine a studentís readiness for doing college level work? Are some tests approved by the U.S. Department of Education for access to Pell grants really measuring college readiness? (Non-degree postsecondary vocational schools also use them for that purpose)


          Should students have a clear understanding before they make a financial commitment as to how much of the program will be paid for by grants or scholarships, loans and personal funds?  Has the institution informed the applicant of the differences between private loans and federally guaranteed loans? Has it set conditions for the continued receipt of financial aid? Is that made clear to the student?


          For postsecondary programs that prepare students for a vocation or occupation, are students provided clear and unambiguous information on job placement rates for graduates of that specific program before they enroll? What information should an institution be required to provide to students?


          Are students informed, before they enroll, whether the credits earned at that institution will transfer to other institutions? If not, how should they be informed?


          How does a college differentiate between remedial/developmental courses and its credit bearing courses? Is there a system in place that periodically assesses the credit worthiness of introductory courses?



Next Steps


            At the May 2006 meeting of the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee, members of the Committee asked that, prior to drafting regulations to implement the two recommendations relating to remedial/developmental coursework and admission requirements, time be made available for the Committee to have a more complete discussion on this topic.


            The Department recommends that, after the Committee has discussed these issues, the Department convene representatives from all four sectors of higher education to build on the Regents ideas and come back to the Board with specific suggestions to implement Recommendations #4 and #5. At that point, the Regents may wish to direct the Department to begin to draft regulations to implement those recommendations.