A boost for remedial-education program

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation logo

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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Enrollment at community colleges is soaring as unemployed workers head back to class to try and upgrade their skills. Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is announcing a $6 million grant to expand a model program in Washington State that promotes remedial education to help more students get their community-college degree. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman filed this report.


Teacher: If you were going to put this in with a milling machine you could not put a blind if you'd bored a hole through it, and sunk it down.

MITCHELL HARTMAN: Twenty-five students -- mostly middle-aged men -- are packed into a community-college classroom in Longview, Wash., a struggling mill town. They're studying for a certificate in manufacturing processes.

Robert Rondinelli has a high-school diploma. He worked as a cabinet-maker until he was laid off last year.

ROBERT RONDINELLI: In my classes that I'm taking I'm doing very well in most except the math. The math is what I need the most.

Rondinelli's learning remedial math together with trade skills like welding and manufacturing processes. He's part of a program that pairs basic academics and job training in a single class. Most students have to pass English and math before getting job training.

HILARY PENNINGTON: It slows them down, it trips them up, and a great number of them never get out of it.

Hilary Pennington is with the Gates Foundation. She says community-college students in Washington's program complete certificates at four times the rate of other students. The $6-million grant will help expand the program, which Pennington says could become a national model.

Robert Rondinelli is hoping for classroom success and a job.

RONDINELLI: Nowadays they're requiring a lot more skill for entry-level. Otherwise I'd be right at the bottom of the heap.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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