Unprepared Students Languish in Community College, Councilman Says

About half of the students entering the CUNY system from a city public high school must be placed in remedial classes before taking college-level courses — and only 26 percent graduate with a two-year associates degree after six years, claimed City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who is holding a hearing to address the issue Monday, said that along with improving remedial programs, the city's Department of Education must take more responsibility for preparing high school students for college.

"They should have, in order for them not to be the statistic of those who drop out, the support needed in order for them to graduate from their community college and to continue through their senior college," Rodriguez said.

The longer it takes to get through school, the greater the chances are that someone will drop out , according to Thomas Bailey from the Community College Research Center at Columbia's Teacher's College.

"Their lives are going on,” said Bailey. "They could lose a job, lose their babysitter, all of the things that can get in the way of them finishing.”

(Photo: Council member Ydanis Rodriguez. Monika Fabian/Feet in Two Worlds)

Bailey said he also believes students need to be better assessed to determine whether they are lacking fundamental skills or simply need a refresher.

Taking a long time to finish school also eats away at students’ financial aid, says Rodriguez.

"They will have to take loans because some of the financial aid money has already been used to cover the remedial courses," Rodriguez said.

According to the New York Public Interest Research Group, The Tuition Assistance Program, a commonly used state grant, runs out after four years.

Farouk Abdallah, from NYPIRG, said the program provides students with $5,000 a year of financial assistance. Federal Pell Grants, however are not time limited.

CUNY spokesman Michael Arena said it recently expanded a program that provides 24 hours a week of intense course work in math, reading comprehension and writing. He said it costs $75 a semester, and 80 percent enrolled in the program are able to move onto regular college level courses.

Arena also said community colleges are expanding a different program that provides smaller class sizes and more one on one with advisors.

Representatives from CUNY, the Community College Researcher Center and students enrolled in remedial classes are all expected to testify at the hearing on Monday.