Hed: Summer remedial programs under way at state universities

Hed: Summer remedial programs under way at state universities

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – The summer remedial program at the state’s eight public universities began earlier this week to try to get academically struggling students ready for Mississippi’s new college admission standards.

“We don’t expect to bring these students up to the level to do college work in the fall,” said Dr. Charles Pickett, acting associate commissioner of academic affairs. “We want to bring them up to the level to do developmental college work.”

Pickett said 178 students have signed up for the program. Fifty-one students are in the program at Mississippi Valley State University, while only one is in the program at the University of Mississippi.

The summer remedial program was put in place based on a ruling by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers in the Ayers college desegregation case. In his Ayers ruling in March 1995, Biggers said the state’s universities were segregated. One example of that segregation, Biggers ruled, was dual admission standards that were lower at the three historically black universities – Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State University.

To fix that problem, the state College Board established uniform standards for all the schools. In conjunction with the new standards, the summer remedial program has been put in place to get students ready for school.

Students who pass the summer remedial program will be placed in developmental classes this fall where they will continue to get additional help.

“We are putting a program in place to help get students in college with a reasonable chance of getting a degree,” Pickett said Thursday.

To pay for the program, each university was allocated $200,000 by the state Legislature this past session. To operate the program, most of the schools hired four to five additional personnel.

Pickett said the personnel at the schools with limited numbers of students “would not be just sitting around.” He said they could perform other duties at the universities.

It would be difficult to shut down a program regardless of the small number of students at some of the schools. The reason for the program and uniform admission standards is to let students go to school where they want and thus eliminate the vestiges of segregation.

Under the old standards, a student had to make a 14 on the ACT college entrance exam to qualify for the historically black schools. The five other schools required at least an 18.

Under the new standards, the ACT score and grade-point average in college core classes are used as the entrance standards. For instance, with a grade-point average of 3.2, a student can gain entrance regardless of the ACT score. A student also can have a 2.5 GPA and have an ACT score of 16 and be admitted. Generally speaking, students with lower grade-point averages need higher ACT scores to gain admittance.

The College Board’s intention was to not base admission only on ACT scores, since some argue the test is discriminatory.

People in the summer remedial program are considered college students, but they must pass to gain entrance this fall. The cost of the program for the students varies from school to school. Alcorn has the lowest total cost at $1,728, while Mississippi State has the highest total cost at $2,224. Many of the students qualify for financial assistance.

Some have worried that the new standards would hurt enrollment at the historically blacks schools despite the summer remedial program. Thus far, entrance requests are up 5.4 percent systemwide, but down at two of the historically black universities – Jackson State and Alcorn. Entrance requests are down 6.2 percent at Jackson State and 25 percent at Alcorn State.