Adding It Up

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(photo by Stephen Nessen)

Community colleges are playing a growing role in American higher education. They’re taking more students than ever, due to the weak economy and the high cost of four-year colleges. But their graduation rates have long been dismal. Nationally, only a third of community college students graduate after three years. Students who enroll in community colleges tend to be poorer and less academically successful than students at four-year colleges. Most need remedial classes -- especially in math. To see why math is such a hurdle, WNYC’s Beth Fertig spent the fall of 2009 visiting a remedial or 'developmental' math class at LaGuardia Community College in Queens.

This report was compiled with assistance from the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Columbia University.

Click through the full series below.

'Adding It Up' Part 1: Confronting Math Fear
Community colleges serve almost half of all college students in the nation. Graduation rates are low -- hovering around 30 percent after three years -- and a majority of students need remedial help, especially in math. This is the case in New York City, where community colleges are seeing a huge influx of new students.
WNYC News Blog: Meet the Class of 'Adding It Up'

WNYC News Blog: The Hurdle of Remedial Math at a Community College

'Adding It Up' Part 2: How to Keep an ‘A’
Here in New York, 75 percent of freshmen at the City University of New York’s community colleges take remedial math, writing, or reading. As Beth Fertig discovered, the students have competing demands, which can make it difficult to keep up.
WNYC News Blog: How to Keep an 'A'

'Adding it Up' Part 3: Teaching Math Means Breaking It Down
As students progress through the educational system, weak math skills take their toll. And community colleges are feeling the pressure. The schools have open enrollment, and on many campuses most of the students take remedial math. In this third installment, Beth Fertig looks at the role of teaching.
WNYC News Blog: Breaking it Down

'Adding it Up' Part 4: The Real Test for Community Colleges
In this final report of our series, Beth Fertig looks at what it takes to succeed in remedial math class, and how colleges are responding to students who don't think math is relevant.
WNYC News Blog: How the Students Scored
WNYC News Blog: I'm Not Ready for College Algebra. Are You?
WNYC News Blog: Take the Sample Test