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When a student's not ready for college

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus
Students walked along the Mall on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

A surprising number of college students are unprepared for college-level study. It's estimated that a third of all college students need some kind of remedial help before beginning coursework.

How and whether to help students compensate for gaps in their education has become a subject of controversy in the academic world. According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

 Those who are the least prepared for college stand the most to lose from policies that push students quickly into college-level classes, according to some of the educators gathered here for the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges. And those students tend, disproportionately, to be minority and poor.

But others argue that struggling students are ill served when they have to pass through a lengthy series of remedial courses before they can start earning college credit. Too often, they get discouraged and drop out before earning a single credit.

Some states, including Colorado, Florida and Connecticut, have passed laws intended to reform the remedial education system. What have those states done? And might their changes be universally applicable?