Because there is no central source of data, our calculation of the expenditures by Michigan universities and colleges required us to collect data from a sample of institutions. We randomly selected 10 out of the population of 15 public universities and 10 out of the population of 54 private colleges and universities. We then examined the catalogues at those schools to identify developmental education courses.9 We submitted requests to the institutions to identify the number of students enrolled in those courses during the most recent academic year. We then multiplied the number of student credit hours in these remedial courses by the tuition per credit hour.
For private institutions we conservatively assumed that the cost of remedial courses is equal to the tuition charged, which excludes any additional costs at those institutions that are covered by donations or grants. For public universities we calculated that tuition covers only 22 percent of the cost of instruction, with the rest coming from state and federal government subsidies, donations, and grants.10 We therefore multiplied total tuition collected for developmental courses by public universities by 4.56 to arrive at an estimate of the total expenditure by those institutions on remedial education.
According to this technique, we calculate that Michigan public universities spend $17.9 million and Michigan private universities spend $5.9 million every year to offer remedial courses. This total of $23.8 million spent by four-year institutions in Michigan also is likely to be a conservative estimate of the cost of remedial education in those institutions. We do not include in this estimate the cost of any non-course remedial education services, such as tutoring, counseling, study skill workshops, writing centers, etc.
In addition, we count only the cost of courses that are determined to be remedial. As with community colleges, four-year institutions have "watered-down" what they consider college level work. As Mitzi Chaffer, director of developmental math programs at Central Michigan State University, says: "There is a general sense that the faculty have to 'water-down' the courses so that students can pass. In many cases students lack the rudimentary math skills necessary to perform even the most basic math problems. Many cannot do basic arithmetic without a calculator."11 Mary Klamo, a math professor at Wayne State University, makes the argument more mildly, "To some extent the material has been 'watered down.' What I see happening is that these courses don't cover the breadth of material that they used to . . . . The students are terribly prepared for college-level math work, and it is a trend that seems to be getting worse. It's not just in math, however; it's their overall academic ability."12