Rachel Ratliff thinks of herself as an Oklahoma State University student. But in reality, it's a little more complicated than that.
Ratliff, an elementary education major, takes most of her classes through OSU. Last week, Ratliff, 20, completed a non-credited math course she took through Northern Oklahoma College. While she was taking the course, she didn't have to leave the OSU campus to go to class.
“You don't even feel like you're at a different school,” she said. “It's like I'm taking classes at OSU.”
OSU began outsourcing its remedial classes to the community college in 2003 in an effort to improve the quality of those courses and improve student success.
Now, the University of Oklahoma is making a similar move. OU and Redlands Community College are launching a partnership in which Redlands will handle the university's remedial math courses.
Although Ratliff was annoyed she had to take a remedial math class at all — “It was kind of a downer a lot of the time,” she said — the class worked well for her. There were only about 20 students in the class, so she got individual attention from the professor. That attention was helpful, she said, especially in an algebra class.
“Math has never been my subject,” she said.
About the courses
Remedial courses, also known as developmental courses, are generally geared toward students who aren't ready for college-level work in a particular subject. The courses don't count toward degree programs, and students' GPAs don't reflect how they did.
Although the courses provide a key steppingstone for some students who lack certain skills they'll need in college, major universities nationwide have been looking for ways to offer higher quality remedial classes at lower cost. In many cases, those institutions have found a solution by partnering with nearby community colleges.
OU's partnership with Redlands comes out of the view that developmental classes aren't within the university's core mission, said Matt Hamilton, OU's registrar and vice president for enrollment management.
Although institutions at every level offer remedial courses to students who need them, those courses have historically been considered part of the role of community colleges.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education's policy manual lists remedial education as a part of the role of community colleges and the state's two technical schools — Oklahoma State University — Oklahoma City and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee.
“It's not within OU's mission to offer developmental courses,” Hamilton said.
When an OU student takes a remedial course from Redlands, it will show up on the student's transcript as transfer credit from Redlands. Students will also pay the considerably cheaper Redlands tuition rate for the courses, Hamilton said.
Otherwise, Hamilton said, the process will be seamless from the student's perspective — students will continue to take remedial courses at OU's Norman campus, they'll be able to enroll in the classes when they register for their other OU classes and they'll receive a single bill for both their OU and Redlands classes.
Bill Baker, vice president of academics at Redlands, said OU students enrolled in Redlands' remedial classes will have access to the college's tutoring program at any time of the day or night.
Any OU student can go to the university's tutoring center for assistance during the day. But if a student is stuck on quadratic equations, for example, at 2 a.m. on a Monday, that student has access to an online tutor who has a master's degree or higher, Baker said. The tutors help students work through problems using an online chat system, he said.
OU's relationship with Redlands isn't uncommon. Until recently, the University of Central Oklahoma contracted with Rose State College to handle UCO's developmental algebra courses.
Debbie Quirey, director of NOC's Stillwater campus, said the relationship between major universities and community colleges is a natural one. A university like OSU has a multifaceted role — it has duties in other areas, including outreach and research.
That isn't the case with community college, which focus only on instruction, Quirey said.
“I don't hire researchers,” Quirey said. “I'm looking for folks who can teach and do a really good job of it.”