Research in Higher Education

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 171–200 | Cite as

The Aftermath of Remedial Math: Investigating the Low Rate of Certificate Completion among Remedial Math Students

  • Peter Riley BahrEmail author


Nationally, a majority of community college students require remedial assistance with mathematics, but comparatively few students who begin the remedial math sequence ultimately complete it and achieve college-level math competency. The academic outcomes of students who begin the sequence but do not complete it are disproportionately unfavorable: most students depart from the community college without a credential and without transferring to a four-year institution. Interestingly, however, many of these students continue to attend the community college after they exit the remedial math sequence, sometimes for an extended period. One is led to ask why students who do not complete the sequence generally are not finding their way to an alternative credential objective that does not require college-level math competency, such as a career and technical education certificate, sometimes referred to as a vocational certificate. In this study, I explore three possible answers to this question, including difficulty navigating to the alternative credential, declining participation in the community college, and declining academic performance. I find that all three of these explanations contribute (to varying degrees) to explaining the low rate of certificate completion among remedial math students who do not achieve college-level math competency.


Community College Remedial Developmental Math Vocational Certificate 



This material is based upon work supported by the Association for Institutional Research, the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Science Foundation, and the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative under Association for Institutional Research Grant Number RG10-131. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Christopher Nellum with the preparation of the NELS/PETS data for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, University of Michigan, School of EducationAnn ArborUSA

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