In corequisite models, students deemed “underprepared” are not excluded from transfer-level courses. Instead, they receive additional support to be successful there.
California’s new AB705 legislation restricts colleges from requiring students to enroll in non-transferable English and math courses that lengthen their time to degree, and it guides colleges toward corequisite models in which students receive “additional concurrent support…during the same semester that they take a transfer-level English or mathematics course.”
Corequisite models are the most powerful strategy for increasing completion of transfer-level math and English for students designated “not college ready.” In states that have replaced traditional remediation with corequisite models, such as Tennessee, Colorado, Indiana, and West Virginia, students are completing transfer requirements in math and English at nearly three times the national average, and in half the time.
There are many ways to implement corequisite remediation, including pairing a transfer-level course with a support course, extending instructional time through additional lecture or lab hours, or requiring students to participate in academic support services or supplemental instruction.
In California, most corequisite models are the paired-course model where designated sections of a transfer-level math or English course are linked to a support course taught by the same instructor, and just-in-time remediation is blended into the higher-level work. In English this means that reading and writing instruction are embedded in the challenging tasks of College Composition. In math, support is tailored to the transfer-level math students are taking for their program of study, such as Statistics, College Algebra, or Business Calculus.
The first California colleges to implement corequisite remediation have seen dramatic gains in completion of transfer-level math and English for all demographic groups, including students previously placed into the lowest levels of remediation. Some highlights:
- At San Diego Mesa College, students previously required to take one or two semesters of remediation can now enroll in a 2-unit support course linked to transfer-level English. In 2016-2017, 73% of corequisite students passed transfer-level English. This is almost double the rate of students who started in Mesa’s traditional remedial courses and almost double the statewide average for one-year completion of transfer-level English (38%). Among African-American corequisite students, one-year completion of transfer-level English was more than three times the state average (81% vs. 25%).
- At Cuyamaca College, students previously placed into traditional remediation now enroll in 2-unit corequisite courses attached to Statistics, Precalculus, and Business Calculus. One-year completion of transfer-level math for “underprepared” students has jumped from 10% to 67%, with impressive gains for students of color. Among African-American students in corequisite models, one-year completion of transfer-level math is nearly seven times the state average (55% vs. 8%). For Latinx students it is nearly six times the state average (65% vs. 11%). Among students placed into Elementary Algebra – those who traditionally would have taken a year of remedial courses – 60% pass transfer-level Business and STEM courses with corequisite support, and 70% pass Statistics with support.
- At Los Medanos College, students who don’t qualify for the regular college Statistics can enroll in sections of the course that are linked with a 2-unit support course. Corequisite students succeeded in Statistics at the same rate as higher placing students who enrolled without support (67%), and racial equity gaps have been eliminated. Broadening students’ access to Statistics has doubled student completion of transfer-level math college-wide (22% in 2010 vs. 45% in 2016). Compared to state averages, completion of transfer-level math in one year is nearly 2.6 times higher overall (45% vs. 17%), and it is four times higher for African Americans (31% vs. 8%) and Hispanics (44% vs. 11%).
Additional corequisite results from California community colleges are featured in the publication Up to the Challenge. Detailed information about corequisite implementation from throughout the state is available here: English and math.
Issues to Consider
Faculty Development: Faculty need support to teach in corequisite models, so that they can provide just-in-time remediation in the context of the college-level tasks, rather than expecting students to arrive with foundational skills fully in place. Many colleges are using the CAP instructional design principles as a framework for re-thinking instruction in corequisite and other accelerated models.
Scalability: Given the huge benefits of corequisite models, it's best to design with scale in mind. While some corequisite models involve small class size, this presents both room scheduling and financial challenges that make expansion difficult, particularly given state funding caps for California community colleges. In California, corequisite models typically involve standard class sizes, and early data show comparable completion gains to other models.
Eligibility Criteria: The research on corequisite models shows that all students see higher completion in corequisite models compared to stand-alone remedial courses, including students with low scores on standardized placement tests. Given this, some colleges are making their corequisite models open to any student who does not meet the placement criteria for a regular college-level courses. But this issue can be politically contentious, so other colleges are limiting access -- e.g., to be eligible, students must be placed one-level-below.
Type of Units: Because of limits on the number of units allowed in Associate Degrees for Transfer, most colleges are not using transferable units for their corequisite models. Instead, designated sections of the college-level course are hard-linked with a new basic skills course, using a registration mechanism similar to what is used in learning communities. The corequisite basic skills units can be either lecture or lab units.
Part-Time Faculty Load: In California, part-time faculty can teach a maximum of 10 units per semester in a district. For most faculty, an ideal assignment package is as close as possible to 10 units/term. This is a factor to consider when designing a corequisite model. If the college-level course is 4 units, a 2-unit corequisite brings the total to 6 units, and part-time faculty could meet their load with one regular college-level course and one corequisite model.
Registration/Technical Issues: Traditionally, "college readiness" has been a yes/no binary -- students were either eligible for a college-level course, or blocked from enrolling because they didn't meet the stated pre-requisite. Early implementers of corequisite models have needed to work closely with their IT colleagues to develop smooth mechanisms for student registration in corequisite models.