1. David Breneman and William Haarlow estimate that the cost nationally of addressing the lack of basic skills in public higher education is approximately $1 billion. Ronald Phipps puts the figure at about $2 billion annually. But these figures are only the costs of remedial or developmental education in higher education paid by the government. They do not include several types of costs that are included in our calculations, such as: higher education costs paid by the recipients of remedial education; remedial education costs paid by privately operated higher education; expenditures by employers to teach basic skills to employees; expenditures by employers to purchase technology that substitutes for the lack of basic skills among employees; lost productivity in the workplace caused by the lack of basic skills; and the cost of government programs to address problems caused by the lack of basic skills (including welfare, criminal justice, etc.). See David Breneman and William Haarlow, Remediation in Higher Education (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, July 1998); and Ronald Phipps, College Remediation: What it is, What it Costs, What's at Stake (Washington, DC: Institute for Higher Education Policy, December 1998).

  2. The college samples were drawn from a universe of 15 public universities and 54 private colleges, as listed in the "Directory of Michigan Institutions of Higher Education," Michigan State Board of Education, March, 1999. One thousand employers randomly selected from a database provided by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce were sent surveys, 113 of whom responded. The database is a commercially developed product that attempts to list all employers in Michigan, not just chamber members. We weighted the sample so that we were more likely to select employers with more employees. Our sample of Michigan businesses represented 118,840 employees or approximately 4 percent of all workers in Michigan.

  3. Interview with Julianne Sisung, Kellogg Community College, February 29, 2000; Interview with Janet Detloff, Wayne County Community College, March 3, 2000; Interview with Steve Carlson, Kellogg Community College, February 29, 2000.

  4. Michigan Community College Network. Available at http://www.michigancc.net/s_d/reports/acs/00/index.tml; accessed on August 13, 2001.

  5. E-mail correspondence with Deborah Lonik, Program Specialist, Community College Services, Michigan Department of Education, September 28, 1999.

  6. Interview, February 28, 2000.

  7. Interview, February 29, 2000.

  8. "A Survey of Student Assessment and Developmental Education in Michigan Community Colleges," Michigan Department of Education, May 7, 1990.

  9. It was usually obvious which courses were remedial. To handle ambiguous cases we defined remedial education courses as those whose credits did not count for graduation or did not count toward a major in the field. Very few courses are offered at colleges whose credits do not satisfy at least some requirements.

  10. This estimate that tuition covers 22 percent of costs was calculated from information obtained from the Michigan Information Center, which provided the Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System Finance Survey results from all 15 public universities. According to those surveys, tuition represented 22 percent of total current revenues.

  11. Interview, March 1, 2000.

  12. Interview, March 2, 2000.

  13. Our response rate of slightly more than 10 percent is typical of surveys administered by mail.

  14. Michigan Curriculum Framework. Available at http://cdp.mde.state.mi.us/MCF/ContentStandards/CareerEmployability/; accessed on August 22, 2000.

  15. Figures are rounded to the nearest million.

  16. Another reason our estimate of the expenditures by post-secondary educational institutions is likely to be low is that we do not include any expenditures by vocational schools, many of which educate students with the lowest level of basic skills. We excluded vocational schools because it was too difficult to isolate expenditures on basic skills from expenditures for job-specific skills.

  17. See Breneman and Haarlow, and Phipps' research referenced in footnote 1.

  18. This measure was chosen over any direct cost to employers who do pay to remediate their own workers because employers as a whole do not have incentives to engage in full remediation of their workers. They understand that if they invest so much in a particular worker, that worker could be hired away by competitors who choose not to pay for full remediation. In other words, direct employer costs are highly unreliable as a measure of the true cost of full remediation.

  19. Education Week's Quality Counts. Available at http://www.edweek.org/sreports/qc00/templates/state-comp.htm; accessed on August 16, 2000. Check box for "Michigan" then click "Compare!" button.

  20. The number of full-time equivalent students receiving remedial education at four-year colleges and universities was computed from course enrollment data. The number of full-time equivalent students receiving remedial education at community colleges was estimated by multiplying their total enrollments by 6.3 percent, which is the portion of revenues devoted to remedial services.

  21. According to the Michigan Department of Education there were 120,776 8th-graders in 1994. Five years later when those students should have been graduating there were only 91,691 graduates. The difference of roughly 29,000 are those who dropped out.

  22. Michigan Department of Education. Available at http://www.mde.state.mi.us/reports/msr/index98.shtml; accessed on August 18, 2000. This figure is for instructional costs only and does not include capital expenditures or extra programs, such as school lunch, transportation, etc. (Click on "1998 School Report in PDF format" and see "State Avg Bldg Data.") Since these costs do not apply in post-secondary institutions, this lower per-pupil figure is the most reasonable to use.

  23. Actually more students than this will enroll for less than a year's worth of courses. This figure is the full-time equivalent of students who will enroll in remedial courses.

  24. National Center for Education Statistics. Available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/digest99/d99t125.htmlaccessed on August 18, 2000. The 8th-grade is the oldest group for which scores are available in Michigan. "Below basic" is defined by NAEP as a level of proficiency below the "basic" level, which "denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at that grade."

  25. Interview, February 28, 2000.

  26. Interview, February 29, 2000.

  27. Interview, March 3, 2000.

  28. Interview, February 29, 2000.

  29. Interview, February 29, 2000.

  30. Interview, March 1, 2000.

  31. Interview, March 1, 2000.

  32. Interview, March 1, 2000.

  33. Interview, March 1, 2000.

  34. See "Developmental Education: A Twenty-First Century Social and Economic Imperative," League for Innovation in the Community College, The College Board, 1998.

  35. Breneman and Haarlow, p. 20. See footnote 1.

  36. Walter J. Ong, Jr., Orality and Literacy; The Technologization of the Word (London: Methuen, 1981). Ong notes that the mental style of people who have not assimilated the demands of literacy tends to be egocentric and combative, hence unsuited to subtle analysis or meditation: "Many, if not all, oral or residually oral cultures strike literates as extraordinarily agonistic in their verbal performance and indeed in their lifestyle. Writing fosters abstractions that disengage knowledge from the arena where human beings struggle with one another. It separates the knower from the known. By keeping knowledge embedded in the human lifeworld, orality situates knowledge within a context of struggle" (pp. 43-44).

  37. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (New York: Penguin, 1996), pp. 236-237.

  38. The requirements of Greek education after the advent of alphabetic literacy can be gleaned from the literary remains of Athenian civilization: The basis of education lay in the alphabet, the minimal set of characters, in an arbitrary order, for allowing the writer to spell or to pronounce any word in his language according to set (minimal) rules. We call this principle phonetics. Once schoolchildren had learned their abecedary, they started to read. Greek education, which produced what is arguably the most intellectually and artistically dazzling cultural outburst known to history, was heavily literary, based on Homer's epic poems and on tragic drama. At later, higher stages, the skills of argument, especially the rules of logic, became important. Geometry entered the pedagogical picture at an early age. A knowledge of civics and, to some extent, of history, was also deemed important.

  39. Ong, pp. 103-104.

  40. Without the ability to organize observations in a permanent and external form, Havelock argues, the systematic examination of nature required for the establishment of any science, as we understand that term, was simply impossible.

  41. "In the absence of elaborate analytic categories that depend on writing to structure knowledge at a distance from lived experience," Ong says, "oral cultures must conceptualize and verbalize all their knowledge with more or less close reference to the human lifeworld, assimilating the alien, objective world to the more immediate, familiar interaction of human beings. A chirographic (writing) culture and even more a typographic (print) culture can distance and in a way denature even the human, itemizing such things as names of leaders and political divisions in an abstract, neutral list entirely devoid of human action context" (Orality and Literacy 42). For a good example of a rational, "distanced," analysis of human behaviors and how they might be optimally organized, see The Federalist Papers.

  42. In his article, "The Swamp of Remedial Education" (Academic Questions 9/3 Summer 1996), Bruno Manno states that "75 per cent of American colleges offer remedial courses in reading, writing, and mathematics. Thirty per cent of entering students (55 at minority colleges) enroll in at least one course" (p. 78). Manno points out that the need for remedial education "lengthens the time it takes to earn an undergraduate degree, adding cost and promoting aimless academic drift. Only 31 percent of students earn a degree in four years, down from 45 percent in 1977, with over 66 percent taking five or more years, up about 55 percent" (p. 79). But, says Manno, "remedial education has a second cost. It devalues the work and significance of the college degree and high school diploma, which are often awarded to the academically unqualified" (p. 79). A Michigan student who has graduated with a high school diploma but who cannot do the tasks listed in the Skills Content Standards perfectly illustrates Manno's argument. Again, I ask my readers to imagine it not from the legitimately frustrated perspective of employers who must remediate poorly educated students, but from the perspective of those students, who cannot exercise command over their own unrealized potential.

  43. As Greene notes, administrators are now reluctant to use the word remediation; they refer to such courses not as remedial but as developmental. As Gertrude Stein put it: "A rose is a rose is a rose."

  44. Sandra Stotsky, Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction Is Undermining Our Children's Ability to Read, Write, and Reason (New York: Free Press, 1999), pp. 5-6.

  45. Ibid., p. 259.

  46. Douglas Carnine, Why Education Experts Resist Effective Practices (And What It Would Take to Make Education More Like Medicine) (Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 2000).

  47. Stotsky, pp. 227-28.

  48. Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli, eds., The State of State Standards 2000 (Washington, DC:

  49. Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, January 2000).

  50. Jay P. Greene, The Cost of Remedial Education: How Much Michigan Pays When Students Fail to Learn Basic Skills (Midland, MI: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, September 2000), p. 1.

  51. Diane Ravitch, ed., Brookings Papers on Education Policy, 1998 (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 1998).

  52. David W. Breneman, "Remediation in Higher Education: Its Extent and Cost," in Ravitch, op. cit., pp. 359-381.

  53. Greene, op.cit., p. 9.

  54. Op. cit., p. 18.

  55. There also seem to be one or more minor inconsistencies in his estimates that would lead to unestimated or underestimated costs. Greene counts, for example, the tuition and other costs of community colleges but only the tuition costs of four-year public institutions, even though they are publicly subsidized.

  56. See, for example, Gary A. Becker, A Treatise on the Family (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981) and James S. Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).

  57. Some economists distinguish these by the terms "private" and "social" returns of education.

  58. Herbert J. Walberg. Spending More While Learning Less (Washington, DC.: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1998).

  59. Jean Johnson and Steve Farkas, Getting By: What American Teenagers Really Think About Their Schools (New York: Public Agenda, 1997).

  60. Steve Farkas and Jean Johnson, Different Drummers: How Teachers of Teachers View Public Education (New York: Public Agenda, 1997).

  61. E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Boston, MA.: Vintage, 1987).

  62. See Coleman's work referenced in footnote 55.

  63. Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: Free Press, 1996).

  64. See, for example, Matthew Ladner and Matthew J. Brouillette, The Impact of Limited School Choice on School Districts (Midland, MI: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, August 2000).