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College & Workforce Readiness

Reaching Out to Help Immigrant Students at Community College

By Caralee J. Adams — January 17, 2012 2 min read

Like many who attend community college, immigrant students often are struggling to pay for college while juggling jobs and families. They also face unique challenges as they learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, and try to navigate the unfamiliar system of the college and community services.

To better serve this growing population, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education issued a report Monday with recommendations and strategies for campus administrators.

Much of the expansion of the workforce in the coming years is expected to come from immigrants, and many will turn to community colleges for job training. The report estimates by 2030, nearly one in five U.S. workers will be an immigrant.

The CCCIE suggests action by community colleges should include:
-Developing an immigrant education strategy;
-Building a community of supporters;
-Redesigning ESL instruction and career pathways; and
-Empowering immigrant students as leaders.

To improve education for immigrant students, the report suggests expanding ESL classroom capacity to meet demand, hiring more well-qualified ESL instructors, and providing differentiated ESL curricula and career pathways to accommodate
the various English proficiency and educational levels of immigrant students. Also, there is a need for a more comprehensive assessment process to better reflect immigrant students’ needs and strengths, it says. Another critical issue is scheduling classes that can accommodate students’ work schedules and family responsibilities.

Among the report’s specific recommendations for policymakers:
-Improve access to financial aid and revise policies to allow support for noncredit ESL;
-Fund public awareness campaigns about the contributions of immigrants and the role of community colleges in educating immigrants;
-Support research to expand the field of immigrant education and training; and
-Increase peer-to-peer learning, technical assistance, and collaborative research
among community colleges and partner organizations.

The CCCIE emphasizes that community colleges with the most success in serving this population have found ways to support their initiatives often through a mix of private- and public-sector funds and by leveraging resources through multi-sector partnerships.

For the full report and examples of model programs on campuses to serve immigrant students, go to Increasing Opportunities for Immigrant Students: Community College Strategies for Success here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.