Neither of his parents, who are from the Dominican Republic, attended high school, he
said. Yet Mr. Payero yearns for a career in psychology. “I feel like I can really
understand people and where they come from,” he said.
Remedial classes require commitment. Fees for part-time students typically range from
$560 to $910 per class. For full-time students, the $1,650 paid in tuition each semester
covers remedial instruction, but none of the classes offer academic credit. Financial
aid can help, but drawing from those resources could leave students with less to cover
the cost of college-credit courses.
Further, many students, remedial or not, will never graduate. CUNY officials say that
only about 25 percent of full-time students at the community colleges graduate within
six years, though the university does not track students who transfer to another college.
A recent nationwide study that followed community college freshmen over six years found
that only 35 percent earned any sort of degree.
LaGuardia's president, Gail O. Mellow, said she was encouraged by the immersion program
that CUNY began more than a year ago.
Normally, remedial students juggle those courses and college-level classes over several
semesters. But in the immersion program, students take only remedial classes for one
semester, spending up to 25 hours a week in the classroom, for a flat fee of $75. More
than 70 percent of students have passed the program, compared with 50 percent of those
in the regular remedial classes, university officials say.
The university plans to expand the immersion program, which now has about 350 students,
to 1,000 next fall.
“I embrace developmental education because it pivots lives,” Dr. Mellow said. “If students
get an associate’s degree, they can become nurses, making $85,000 a year. If they don’t
make it through that developmental class, they’ll barely make minimum wage.”
Still, as government financing has eroded in recent years, Dr. Mellow has had to trim some
support services available to remedial students, reducing the number of tutors and cutting
math lab hours. She said she was determined not to raise the average class size beyond the
current 24 students.
The New York City Department of Education is also trying to help reduce the ranks of
remedial students. It has begun tracking how each high school's students go on to perform
in college, and starting in 2012, it will include measurements of a student’s college
readiness in its annual school progress reports. The city and CUNY are working together to
align their academic standards and curriculum's.
In the meantime, community college professors are heartened by small victories. All of Dr.
Ianni's students who took the Compass exam passed. “They didn’t really realize that they
had it in them,” Dr. Ianni said. “For those who make it to the exit line, to see the beam
on their faces is really incredible.”