Spin Cycle

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ALBANY – A New York state budget hearing Thursday about colleges and universities repeatedly turned to a pressing concern about high schools.

State officials said a third of New York’s high school graduates need remedial help at their four-year colleges and half of community college students need to take remedial classes.

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“My frustration is that we are doing a lot of this remediation, but it’s not adequately moving the dial,” said Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York.

She said the need is costly for students and families who must pay college rates to learn high school basics, often extending a student’s stay at a four-year college. In addition, the need for remedial classes can cut a student’s chances of graduating from college.

For taxpayers, remediation costs SUNY $80 million a year at a time the system faces cuts, is increasing tuition, and is trying to bolster its ranks of full-time faculty by 250 instructors this year.

Zimpher urged legislators conducting the budget hearing to create a comprehensive system to alert high school students and their families when they are slipping from a track of being able to handle college work when they graduate. The system would make sure students take appropriate courses, understand the material and don’t create gaps in development such as avoiding a math class which can leave a student “rusty,” Zimpher said.

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) suggested public schools offer remediation for students after they graduate, in the summer before starting college.

State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. agreed on the need to better prepare high school graduates for college.

“Remedial courses take a toll on students and their families,” King told legislators.

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 King said the lack of preparation for college is a major reason the state must continues its move to a national Common Core with higher academic standards. King said the higher standards are needed so New York students can complete globally.

 Legislative leaders, however, have called for a delay in implementing the Common Core after months of uproar from parents, teachers and students who say the standards are being raised too high, too fast. Parents and teachers have argued the state hasn’t adequately trained teachers or prepared students for the new standards and is requiring too much testing.

Zimpher supported the move to the Common Core.

“This is precisely what this country needed to do,” she said.

SUNY has 64 campuses statewide and serves 465,000 students.