A state bill that allows all students to take transferable courses at a community college without going through placement exams was implemented last semester.
And while the bill may increase opportunities for students, there are some concerns that students who lack basic skills, particularly in math and English, could fall further and further behind.
Michael Mandelkern, dean of Literature and Languages, said that despite the concerns there are support systems to help every student excel.
“The idea behind the bill is if you allow students to take the higher-level coursework and you provide support, then students could be more successful in less time,” Mandelkern said.
Rather than offer remedial classes that didn’t earn the student college credit, college-level courses now offer free non-credit, one-unit support classes to students who are struggling with the coursework. If a student can’t make it to the support classes, most of the courses have embedded tutors who sit in during the class and help students on a more one-on-one session, he said.
Although some students may not have the fundamentals, the level of work in the classes does not decrease. The classes still have the same value and coursework, so it’s up to the student to take the support opportunities that OCC offers, Mandelkern said.
For international students whose first language may not be English, OCC offers English as a Second Language classes that have the same credit and the same level as English 100, but are taught by ESL instructors.
They also offer free support classes to help students with spelling, grammar, sentence structure, production and reading.
Before the bill was passed, community college students had to take a basic standardized test to see where they should be placed in English and math.
“There was research showing that students would get stuck in these remedial classes and never really get out,” Mandelkern said. “It would take them years.”
Mandelkern added that although there hasn’t been a full analysis comparing graduation and passing rates from before the bill to now, officials are hopeful there will be positive results.