The Impact of Postsecondary Remediation Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach: Addressing Endogenous Sorting and Noncompliance
NBER Working Paper No. 14194
Remedial or developmental courses are the most common instruments used to assist postsecondary students who are not ready for college-level coursework. However, despite its important role in higher education and substantial costs, there is little rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of college remediation on the outcomes of students. This study uses a detailed dataset to identify the causal effect of remediation on the outcomes of nearly 100,000 college students in Florida. Using a Regression Discontinuity design, we provide causal estimates while also investigating possible endogenous sorting around the policy cutoff. The results suggest math and reading remedial courses have mixed benefits. Being assigned to remediation appears to increase persistence to the second year and the total number of credits completed for students on the margin of passing out of the requirement, but it does not increase the completion of college-level credits or eventual degree completion. Taken together, the results suggest that remediation might promote early persistence in college, but it does not necessarily help students on the margin of passing the placement cutoff make long-term progress toward earning a degree.