NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 20, 2004

One out of every three high school graduates of the Alabama public school system does not possess basic reading, writing and math skills, according to the Alabama Policy Institute. Furthermore, student unpreparedness costs the state's community colleges, universities and employers about $541 million per year.

According to researchers, the impact on Alabama's institutes of higher education and employers is substantial:

  • Community colleges spend an estimated $48 million on remedial classes; students paid $9,689,225 in tuition and fees for remedial classes during the 2001-2002 school year.
  • Many four-year universities also offer remedial classes to the cost of $37 million per year; four-year university students paid $5 million in tuition and fees for remedial classes during the 2001-2002 school year.
  • Seventy-seven employers in the state revealed they spent about $451,255 in the last fiscal year helping employees in basic reading, writing and math skills; if extrapolated over all of the state's employers, the amount totals about $34 million.

Moreover, businesses may spend as much as $219 million per year for unprepared graduates when factoring in the cost of technology designed to assist employees -- i.e. cash registers that give exact change, touch screens with pictures that reduce reading, and so forth. The estimated cost increases even further (to about $355 million per year) when factoring in profits lost by employers resulting from less productivity from undereducated employees.

These estimates may be on the low side, says the study, for several reasons. First, the costs of aids such as diagnostic exams and computer-learning were not factored into the school estimates; second, the estimates are based solely on classes that are specifically designated as developmental and don't include those that are labeled as college level but are described more as remedial. Finally, not all students who require remedial classes are taking them.

Source: Christopher W. Hammons, Ph.D., "The Cost of Remedial Education: How Much Alabama Pays When Students Fail to Learn Basic Skills," Alabama Policy Institute, April 2004.


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