SHEEO Member Highlight: Using Data to Address Developmental Education in Minnesota

Larry Pogemiller

Concern about the high costs of developmental education, enhanced by detailed information about developmental education in our state, led the 2015 Minnesota Legislature to enact policy changes to reduce costs for both the state and for students. The use of data extracted from the Statewide Longitudinal Educational Data System (SLEDS) was instrumental in building the case for these changes.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) provides students with financial aid and information to help them gain access to postsecondary education. OHE is the state's clearinghouse for data, research and analysis on postsecondary enrollment, financial aid, finance and trends. OHE houses SLEDS which connects K-12, higher education and workforce data to provide educators and policymakers with a comprehensive understanding of student experiences, performance and outcomes. In addition, SLEDS allows state policymakers and educators to develop intervention strategies to address inequities within the educational systems.

Minnesota is using data related to developmental education to inform policy decisions. Developmental education is costly, both in terms of students’ time and money. Developmental education courses typically do not count toward degree requirements but cost the same as other credits, thus increasing the total expense of a student’s program of study. From the state’s perspective, non-credit developmental courses are concerning because they use students’ time-limited federal financial aid as well as state grants and loans.

Students enrolling in developmental education at public institutions in Minnesota persist from first to second year at comparable rates to their peers. Thus, developmental education helps ensure college access and progress. Given the costs of developmental education to students and the state, however, there has been pressure to develop alternative solutions that provide students with the support they need at lower cost.

In 2014, OHE used SLEDS data on the transition between high school and college to inform policies around developmental education. “Getting Prepared” is an annual report released by OHE on the academic readiness of Minnesota high school graduates for college-level coursework. This report has led to a better understanding of developmental education needs of Minnesota high school graduates at postsecondary institutions in the state.

The 2014 report showed that while 28 percent of recent Minnesota high school graduates required developmental education in college, participation in developmental education varied considerably by institution type, racial/ethnic group, primary language and socio-economic status.

• 85 percent of graduates taking developmental education are enrolled at public two-year colleges, as compared to 12 percent at Minnesota state universities.
• 55 percent of Black graduates, 45 percent of Hispanic/Latinos, 39 percent of Asians and 38 percent of American Indians enrolled in developmental education in college as compared to 24 percent of their White peers.
• 69 percent of graduates who primarily spoke Somali at home enrolled in developmental education, compared to 50 percent for Hmong, 50 percent for Spanish and 26 percent for English speakers.
• 47 percent of graduates who enrolled in free lunch during high school and 37 percent of graduates who enrolled in reduced price lunch took developmental education in college, as compared to only 24 percent of graduates who did not enroll in free or reduced lunch.

OHE’s use of SLEDS data allowed the identification of new indicators from students’ K-12 recordssuch as free/reduced price lunch and language spoken at homethat helped inform potential policy changes.

In response to “Getting Prepared” and national pressure to address developmental education, the Minnesota Legislature enacted a number of initiatives in 2015. For example, a new law requires the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU) to provide students with adequate time and resources to prepare for placement tests as well as opportunities to retake those tests before placing them in developmental courses. Additionally, receiving a college-ready score on an ACT subject test exempts students from developmental coursework in that area.

Recognizing the important relationship between developmental education and timely completion, MnSCU will report the percent of students placed in developmental education and the percent of students completing developmental education within one year. MnSCU also will develop a plan that, to the extent appropriate, will replace developmental courses with corequisite supplemental instruction tied to credit-bearing courses. Last, for the first time since Minnesota began using performance funding in 2007, one of the metrics for MnSCU to receive 5 percent of its 2017 appropriation requires the System to decrease the number of students in developmental education by 10 percent over a two-year period.

Concern about the costs of developmental education, coupled with detailed reporting on Minnesota’s developmental education landscape, allowed the Minnesota Legislature to enact policy changes that will begin to address some of the issues related to developmental education. OHE’s use of SLEDS data for the “Getting Prepared” report has informed policymaking and addressed the changing needs of Minnesota’s educational institutions. This has enabled data-informed policymaking around an issue that is important to students, families, taxpayers and the State of Minnesota.

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