Gateway Courses:  The First Step Towards College Success

Starting college can be overwhelming for students, but a strong start is essential for academic success.  The first college-level courses in a subject area are called “gateway courses,” and passing gateway courses in math and English is the first academic milestone on the path to a degree.  According to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, nationally, only 16% of community college students complete gateway courses in both math and English in the first year.

In Kentucky, 29,303 first-time students enrolled in a public institution in the fall of 2020, and only 5% of them completed gateway courses in math and English by May 2021.  Student progress in the first year predicts relation and completion.  The impact of gateway courses on retention and degree completion is significant.  In community colleges, 45% of students who complete math and English gateway courses graduate in three years, while only 20% of students who do not complete them graduate within the same timeframe.

All students can succeed in gateway courses, and institutions focused on being “student ready” will be best prepared to provide the needed support for all students admitted to their programs.  Corequisite models increase gateway course success and shrink institutional performance gaps across student groups.  Prioritizing placement and pedagogy can also contribute to success.  However, institutional performance gaps still exist by race, income, and age. 

Improving gateway course success and closing equity gaps are essential to reach Kentucky’s education attainment goal of 60% of the population with a postsecondary credential or degree by 2030.  In conclusion, Gateway Courses are crucial for academic success, and ensuring that students receive the necessary support and resources to excel is crucial to meeting Kentucky’s educational goals.

Gateway Course for Student Success
Source: Kentucky Student Success Collaborative