Have you got course(s) in … basic math … arithmetic … pre-algebra … fraction modules … decimal modules … etc?? Although some colleges and a few states have eliminated courses at this level, the vast majority of colleges still have one or more. One is too many! #acceleration #FinancialAid

Federal financial aid guidelines prohibit a course to count for enrollment levels unless it is at least at the high school level; courses below high school (K to 8) can not be used. See https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1415Vol1Ch1.pdf

My institution is currently going through a process (intensely so) dealing with our single course at that level (pre-algebra). Our department has been asked (about every 10 years) to classify developmental courses as ‘high school’ or ‘below high school’. The most recent request resulted in our best answer at this time: pre-algebra is at the K-8 level. That was mostly true 10 years ago, and the answer is even clearer when the Common Core standards are considered.

Does your college follow this rule? You might know already, but be aware that all institutions can be subject to a financial aid audit; violations can result in financial penalties up to and including loss of all federal financial aid money. Fines are the most common penalty, from what I’ve heard.

Do you have 3 or more courses below intermediate algebra? Two of these are likely to be ‘elementary level’ (non-federal financial aid), and one ‘high school’ (beginning algebra). Three courses at that level creates a practical problem for students (completion), a financial problem for your institution (financial aid audit), and a moral problem as well.

The Math Literacy course is designed to have a minimal prerequisite (basic numeracy). Some colleges use Math Literacy with a lower placement cutoff than beginning algebra; some offer Math Literacy without any math prerequisite at all. To me, this is a situation where co-requisite remediation makes a lot of sense. The prerequisite knowledge is a fairly small set, and the range of ‘gaps’ is therefore more limited than it would be in a higher-level course.

For some of us, ‘arithmetic’ is the most common placement level for new students in our college. I’ve heard up to 36% in that placement, with my college’s rate a little lower. In all of the research I’ve seen over the years, one thing has been consistent: courses before beginning algebra do not benefit students in terms of passing subsequent math courses (in general). Our instruction and learning is often the least sophisticated at this level, and student motivation tends to be pretty low.

Let’s agree that eliminating courses below Math Literacy (and beginning algebra) is a really, really good goal. The problems have other solutions within our reach, and our students deserve better than they are getting now. The federal financial aid rules provide an added incentive; however, we have sufficient rationale from other considerations.

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