Remedial Education

Remedial education, also called developmental education, refers to classes intended to bolster the basic skills of new college students so they are adequately prepared for college-level work.  These classes may be non-credit courses and may not be covered by a student’s financial aid.  These courses are usually offered by a community college.  They may be offered by four-year institutions on a cash funded basis (except Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of Colorado Denver).

Placement into Remedial Education

Typically students achieving an assessment score at or above the college-ready cut scores (see table below) may be placed into a college-level class.  Students who do not attain a high enough assessment score, or fail to reach the college-ready cut score (see table below) are given a secondary evaluation (determined by institution), which is used to determine whether remedial classes are needed. 

College-Readiness Assessment Cut Score Table


ACT Subscore

SAT Subscore



Math: 19

Math 460

Elementary Algebra: 85


English: 18

Verbal 440

Sentence Skills: 95


Reading: 17

Verbal 430

Reading Comprehension: 80

Colorado Law regarding Remedial Education

Colorado’s remedial education policy provides criteria for  public higher education institutions to identify students who need remedial courses in English and mathematics. The policy also lays out standards whereby institutions may offer remedial courses.

The state’s goal is to increase the number of students attaining a certificate or degree by supporting institutions in offering high quality academic support to college students – especially those from underrepresented backgrounds – so they can be successful in a college environment. Changes in state law (§23-1-113 C.R.S.) now call for the policy to align with the state’s description of postsecondary and workforce readiness, the Colorado Department of Education’s new graduation guidelines and the state’s admission standards policy.

Supplemental Academic Instruction

One strategy the state is using to increase student success in college is Supplemental Academic Instruction (SAI).  SAI is co-requisite instruction in English or mathematics, for students scoring just below the college-ready cut scores that accompany credit-bearing, college-level, general education English and/or mathematics courses approved for statewide transfer.  The SAI policy was adopted by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) in 2013, and allows state institutions to offer courses to support these students without placing them directly into basic skills classes.  Additionally, once authorized by the CCHE, an institution is eligible to receive Colorado Opportunity Fund (COF) stipend payments for students in these courses. Read this backgrounder. * Community colleges may receive COF for basic skills courses. 

Institutions Authorized to offer Supplemental Academic Instruction:

  • Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Colorado Community College System
  • Aims Community College
  • Western State Colorado University
  • Fort Lewis College

Remedial Education Policy Review Process

State law (§23-1-113 C.R.S.) requires CCHE to review and revise the Remedial Education Policy.  The policy revision process is yet another example of the state’s push to ensure that P-12 and higher education are aligned in both policy and practice. The CCHE appointed a task force to review the policy and make recommendations for changes.  This work was supported by a Core to College Initiative Grant from the Rockefeller Family Fund. The task force began its review in May 2012 and, over 18 months, established preliminary recommendations, vetted those recommendations with stakeholders around the state, and revised the recommendations.

The Colorado Commission on Higher Education on Dec. 5, 2013, unanimously approved changes to the state’s remedial education policy to make it more transparent and flexible with the ultimate aim of boosting student achievement in college.  The revised policy, slated to go into effect in fall 2014, will:

  • Increase the number of assessments that can be used to determine a student’s placement;
  • Provide for the use of “supplemental academic instruction” as an alternative to traditional remediation; and
  • Update testing timeline, by  encouraging institutions to consider using the test scores for only three years after the assessment was taken.

College-Readiness Assessment Cut Scores Table

Assessment Test

English Subscore

Math Subscore







ACT Writing Subscore * / **



Accuplacer *












*    These subscores are being researched by the Department and will be added.
**  Not required, not a primary assessment, but can be used as a secondary evaluation.
*** Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced (SBAC) instruments are currently being deployed and field-tested nationally and by the Colorado Department of Education in an effort to implement and assess statewide college and career readiness standards for students.  The research and validation studies will be available by 2016-17, at which point Colorado institutions of higher education will begin to utilize the approved college-readiness scores.




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