Academic journal article Community College Review

Eric Review: Educating Immigrants: The Community College Role

Academic journal article Community College Review

Eric Review: Educating Immigrants: The Community College Role

Article excerpt

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, immigration to the United States continues to be a powerful force shaping the country's population counts and ethnic composition. According to the most recent Current Population Survey, in March 2000, 28.4 million foreign-born persons resided in the United States, comprising over 10% of the country's population. This proportion represents a steady climb since 1970 when only around 5% of the populace was foreign born. Further, the 27.5 million second-generation immigrants--those of foreign or mixed foreign- and native-born parentage--constitute an additional 10% of the country's residents (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001). Social institutions, including the educational system, play a crucial role in the settlement and societal adjustment of these immigrants by providing opportunities for economic and social advancement. Immigrants, through the varied ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds they represent, play an important role in diversifying the student body of American educational institutions. The experiences and potential stresses related to immigration, including adjusting to a country that may embody significantly different cultural and societal norms, can, at the same time, present special challenges to educational institutions in responding to their students' needs.

This review examines issues related to the immigrant population at one segment of the American higher educational system--the community college. Community colleges, by virtue of their open-access policies, affordability, proximity, and wide range of course offerings including English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL), play an essential role in educating America's newcomers. Questions concerning immigrants' needs, participation, and educational attainment at community colleges and the policy initiatives and institutional responses directed at this population have only recently begun to receive serious scholarly attention. These questions include the following: In what proportions do immigrant students participate in the education offered by American community colleges? How do immigrants perform at two-year colleges, and what role does the community college play in their advancement to further degrees in American higher education? How do colleges strive to serve their population of immigrant students?

The purpose of this review is to discuss these questions through an overview of the existing literature on the community college's role in educating immigrant students. The discussion centers primarily on first-generation immigrants, including naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, individuals who are in the process of legalizing their immigration status, and persons residing unlawfully in the United States. Some of the literature cited, however, focuses on the foreign-born population, comprising all persons residing in the United States who were not American citizens at the time of their birth, such as immigrants or individuals possessing work or student visas. Following a brief examination of the immigrant population in the United States, the review considers questions of access, educational attainment, and institutional services, policies, and programs introduced with specific attention to the needs of immigrant students.

The Immigrant Population

The United States. In addition to a significant increase in immigration, over the past 40 years several important changes have transpired in the population of immigrants in the United States. These changes, in turn, hold consequences that are highly relevant to community colleges providing educational services to immigrant students. Perhaps most importantly, in a significant shift from earlier decades when immigrants arrived primarily from Europe, individuals from Latin America and Asia are overrepresented among today's immigrants, constituting close to 80% of all newcomers. …

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