Unlocking Success: Gateway Courses and Their Importance to College Students
For many college students, passing their gateway courses in English and math is an important step toward graduation. A gateway course is the first college-level course a student takes in a subject area and is considered the first academic milestone on the path to a degree. Sadly, only 16% of community college students nationwide complete gateway courses in both math and English in their first year.
All students, even those labeled academically underprepared in math and/or English, can succeed. Students placed directly into college-level courses are more likely to successfully complete them than those placed in developmental courses. In 2018, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education updated the statewide minimum admissions and placement regulation, requiring corequisite courses for students below academic readiness standards at universities and ensuring all Kentucky Community and Technical College System students have access to corequisite courses.
Institutions focused on being ‘student ready’ will be best prepared to provide the necessary support for all students admitted to their programs. Corequisite models increase gateway course success and shrink institutional performance gaps across student groups. Improving gateway course success and closing equity gaps are essential to reaching Kentucky’s educational attainment goal of 60% of the population with a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030.
To improve gateway course success, institutions must prioritize placement, pedagogy, and pathways. This includes enrolling students on multiple measures and designing effective learning experiences. Culturally responsive teaching and just-in-time teaching are two key teaching approaches to ensure success. Pathways that connect gateway course success to overall student success strategies, such as choosing a major or career path early, fostering a sense of belonging on campus, and supporting basic needs, can make a significant difference in unlocking students’ success in college.