3.1.18 Empty Classroom

Classrooms in Allen Hall sit empty on Thursday, March 1, 2018.

With the University’s holistic admissions policy, which relaxes previous admissions standards, there was a growing potential for the remedial classes to return to the campus that worked so hard to eliminate them. 

After decades of offering remedial courses, the University ended its remediation program in 2001. Remedial classes were taken over by Baton Rouge Community College in an agreement signed between the two schools in April 2001. The University’s previous remedial courses offered no-credit mathematics and English classes for students not prepared for the college courses.

Six weeks into the school year with the largest freshman class settled into campus, the debate over their admissions process still rages. The fall 2018 freshmen faced the University’s “holistic admissions” policy which deemphasized standard testing and GPA requirements, opting to focus more on recommendation letters, personal essays and extracurricular activities.

Opponents of the holistic admissions policy, like Louisiana Board of Regents member Richard Lipsey, argue that relaxing the University’s admissions requirements will lower standards and eventually lead to the return of remedial courses on campus.

“At LSU, we don’t want to go back to the days of having to teach remediation,” Lipsey said in an interview with The Daily Reveille. “We have a good K-12 system, but it’s not perfect. Kids are coming to college, and they can’t pass high school math or English, then we have a problem.”

The University relaxed its previous admission requirements of a 22 on the ACT and a 3.0 GPA. The holistic admissions policy yielded the largest freshman class in the University’s history with over 5,800 students, a dramatic increase since last year when freshman enrollment fell below 5,000 students for the first time since 2009.

Members of the University’s English and mathematics departments are skeptical that remedial classes will return as a result of the holistic admissions policy.

“There has been a lot of data that argues against those types of classes, and I don’t see them returning,” said Director of the University Writing Program Jimmy Butts.

The record-breaking freshman class filled up current lower-level English and mathematics courses. Enrollment in Math 1021, 1022 and 1023 is up about 11 percent since last year, according to Department of Mathematics Chair Oliver Dasbach. Dasbach estimated that an additional 290 students are taking mathematics courses this fall, despite the University having less than 200 designated math majors. Dasbach stressed that enrollment levels returned to 2016 levels and that his department was prepared for the larger enrollment.

This fall alone, the University offered over a hundred English 1001 sections, capped at 20 students per section. Roughly 40 percent of incoming freshmen are exempt from taking English 1001 due to ACT scores, dual-enrollment or AP credits, according to Butts. Butts said he does not see the larger freshman class as added pressure on the faculty.

“I have not thought about it as pressure, but we have talked about it as a faculty,” Butts said. “We try to think about being supportive and helpful for the incoming class. We want to be more aware and help our students develop as writers.”

Some colleges, such as the Manship School of Mass Communication, have undertaken additional steps to assist the large freshman class this semester. In the Manship School, students with composite ACT scores of 23 and below account for about 40 percent of the incoming freshman population. The number is an increase from 32 percent in 2017, according to Manship School Dean Martin Johnson.

This fall, Manship hired their first SI instructor for Mass Communication 2010, Media Writing. The school planned to hire supplemental instructors long before the arrival of the Class of 2022 and hopes to expand tutoring opportunities within the residential colleges, Johnson said.

“I want to see us help people achieve the highest level of excellence they can possibly achieve,” Johnson said. “I’m interested in making B students into A students and C students into B students. I want to see a rising tide carrying everybody up in terms of the excellence they can achieve.”

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