CA Legislative Analyst's Office. Jan 14, 2014.
In 2012, the California State University (CSU) launched Early Start—a program that requires freshmen who do not pass CSU’s placement exams to begin taking remedial courses during the summer before freshman year. Chapter 430, Statutes of 2012 (AB 2497, Solorio), requires our office to report on Early Start participation, demographics, and outcomes. About 27 percent of CSU freshmen participated in Early Start in 2012. A higher percentage of Latinos, blacks, women, and financially needy students enrolled in Early Start compared to all CSU freshmen. Because CSU did not provide data on Early Start outcomes, we were unable to assess whether Early Start affected the time it took for students to become college ready. Moving forward, we recommend the Legislature eliminate the remaining Early Start reporting requirements and instead focus on the reasons why remediation rates remain high. To this end, we recommend the Legislature consider authorizing a broader series of studies on: (1) the appropriateness of CSU’s placement exams and cut scores, (2) whether CSU is accepting students who fall outside its eligibility pool (the top one-third of high school graduates), (3) the rigor of college preparatory coursework in California high schools and the timing of test results that inform what classes are taken senior year, and (4) whether the state's subsidy policies encourage CSU to address high remediation rates.