Historically, many colleges used difficult courses to weed students out of college or out of challenging majors. The wisdom of this tactic is now debatable. It is certain courses—specifically the hard sciences and math—that prevent students from completing college. Now, with a grant from the Lumina Foundation, Maryland is looking to change that. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun:

The state will probably use its grant money to redesign math courses at community colleges, said Nancy Shapiro, the University System of Maryland’s associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. The state’s two-year colleges are struggling to serve a growing number of students who need remedial math before they can begin taking math or science courses for credit.

The Lumina Foundation recently gave a total $9.1-million to help the states—Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas—improve their higher education systems in an effort to increase the number of Americans with college degrees. Different states have addressed this issue differently.

Maryland plans to use its $1 million grant from the Lumina Foundation to “redesign the college courses most responsible for stalling students’ pursuit of degrees.” One example of the redesign was at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. Teachers improved a chemistry course at the school by adding online components making instructors more available to students.

Two years ago, about 50 percent of students taking the chemistry course used to complete the course with a C or better. Today 70 percent of students complete the course successfully. The hope is that by concentrating on these core courses, the classes that stall student progress through college, Maryland, can help many more students make it through college successfully. This tactic is a far cry from the planned attrition of an earlier time.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer