Rigorous Academic Standards

The National Association of Scholars upholds the standards of a liberal arts education that fosters intellectual freedom, searches for the truth, and promotes virtuous citizenship.


Colleges and universities should be expected to make sure that students do rigorous, college-level work. Title IV law unfortunately allows students to receive financial aid for up to 900 clock hours (30 semester or 45 quarter hours) of remedial coursework—approximately one year of remedial course work. Moreover, regulatory and accreditor mandates for retention and “student success” encourage colleges and universities to lower their educational standards, until even “college-level” courses reach remedial levels. Congress should strengthen standards, to encourage colleges to adopt and maintain rigor.

Policy Recommendations

Eliminate Financial Aid for Remedial Courses

Congress should eliminate financial aid for remedial coursework.

Legislative Language: Congress should:

  1. Add to 20 U.S.C. §1091. (Student eligibility) a subsection stating: “No remedial coursework, defined as “below-college-level courses and training in reading, writing, and math that provide the competencies necessary for a student to succeed in college-level coursework,” is eligible for Title IV funding, or for determining a student’s enrollment status or cost of attendance.”
  2. Delete from 20 U.S.C. §1070a.(c) (Period of eligibility for grants) the following sections:
    1. (1) “except that any period during which the student is enrolled in a noncredit or remedial course of study as defined in paragraph (2) shall not be counted for the purpose of this paragraph.”
    2. (2) “Nothing in this section shall exclude from eligibility courses of study which are noncredit or remedial in nature (including courses in English language instruction) which are determined by the institution to be necessary to help the student be prepared for the pursuit of a first undergraduate baccalaureate degree or certificate or, in the case of courses in English language instruction, to be necessary to enable the student to utilize already existing knowledge, training, or skills. Nothing in this section shall exclude from eligibility programs of study abroad that are approved for credit by the home institution at which the student is enrolled.”

Mandate Academic Rigor

Congress should link Title IV eligibility to academic rigor.

Legislative Language: Add to 20 USC §1087c. (Selection of institutions for participation and origination) a subsection mandating that colleges and universities:

  1. give absolute priority to establishing academic rigor, and preventing the decay of standards that allows remedial work to be given college credit, above any institutional, accreditory, or regulatory mandate for ideals such as diversity, equity, inclusion, retention, or student success;
  2. mandate rigorous standards, consisting exclusively of core knowledge conveyed in the classroom, for all courses that qualify for a “core transfer curriculum”;
  3. define “core transfer curriculum” as “a recommended lower-division core curriculum intended to facilitate student transfer among institutions of higher education”; and
  4. draft procedures to ensure that all college courses retain rigorous standards.