Gateway Courses:  A Strong Start for College Success

The first step toward a college degree is often the most critical one.  The success of students in their first college-level courses is a key indicator of their progress towards a degree.  These courses are called gateway courses, and passing the gateway courses in math and English is the first academic milestone on the path to a degree.

Unfortunately, only 16% of community college students nationally complete gateway courses in both math and English in their first year.  However, in Kentucky, there has been progress, with 21% of community college students and 44% of public university students completing these courses by May 2021.

The impact of gateway courses extends beyond the first year.  They predict retention, graduation, and completion rates.  According to research, 45% of students who complete math and English gateway courses graduate in three years, compared to only 20% of students who do not complete them.  Even students who are academically underprepared can succeed.  Placing these students directly into college-level courses can increase their chances of success.

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has updated the statewide minimum admissions and placement regulations to require corequisite courses for students below academic readiness standards at universities.  This has led to significant gains in gateway course completion rates, including a jump from 18% to 52% in college algebra completion in 2016.

Ultimately, improving gateway course success and closing equity gaps are essential to reach Kentucky’s educational attainment goal of 60% of the population with a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030.  With effective pedagogy, culturally responsive teaching, and pathways that connect gateway course success to overall student success strategies, all students can succeed in their college journey.

Gateway Course for Student Success
Source: Kentucky Student Success Collaborative

Leave a Comment