Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

New Report Emphasizes Role of Community Colleges for Immigrant Student Success

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

New Report Emphasizes Role of Community Colleges for Immigrant Student Success

Article excerpt

Increasing Opportunities for Immigrant Students: Community College Strategies for Success, by Jill Casner-Lotto of the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, was published November 2011 but released in January of this year.

The report describes a critical national imperative to educate immigrants since they and their children will account for America's population and workforce growth for the next few decades. The demographics of the United States show an aging population with millions of baby boomers leaving the workforce in retirement. By the year 2030, it is estimated that nearly one in five U.S. workers will be an immigrant.

The Consortium report says, "Ensuring educational access and success for the immigrant population is critical to increasing U.S. college completion, improving workforce readiness, and sustaining the nation's productivity in a highly competitive global economy. The immigrant population represents enormous potential, but significant challenges lie ahead to ensure that the potential is properly developed. Community colleges are well positioned to be critical change agents in this development."

Our nation's community colleges are critical to this effort because they are the point of entry into higher education for the great majority of immigrants. The colleges offer English-language instruction (ESL courses), both academic and vocational training programs, job skills training and re-training for those who come from other countries with advanced degrees but lack English-language skills or whose credentials are not accepted in America.

So the role of the community colleges is to service both the underprepared immigrant population and the already educated. They do so by offering a slew of support in addition to ESL courses, including academic tutoring, career development and employment opportunities, and social support programs that colleges and universities often don't provide.

It was heartening to hear President Obama's State of the Union Speech in January in which he highlighted the important role of this educational sector.

The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) consists of a nationwide network of 23 colleges, professional groups, and research organizations committed to increasing opportunities for immigrant students. The consortium aims to expand educational opportunity and training programs for immigrants throughout the nation's community college sector.

Recognizing the great challenges these goals present, the CCCIE report offers a "Framework for Supporting Immigrant Student Success" that identifies 11 key factors found to be what it calls "promising practices" for promoting immigrant academic success.

The report makes clear that there is no 'one size fits all' solution to the many challenges, but by compiling data and using case studies as examples, it provides a road map toward enhanced immigrant student success.

The 11 key factors make more sense if seen in the context of the special challenges that immigrant students face and the challenges that the community college sector faces. It is common knowledge that, in general, community college students, now about half of all those entering higher education, face a host of challenges they share with immigrant students. Very often, community college students come from lowincome backgrounds and juggle jobs and family responsibilities that their four-year college student cohort often doesn't share.

In addition to the difficulties typical community college students face, immigrant students often have unique challenges. Frequently they must learn a new language, navigate an unfamiliar education system, fill in possible gaps in academics, and adapt to a totally new culture - all this while trying to get an education.

Add to these hurdles the need for immigrant families to settle into a new country by finding a place to live and understanding rental agreements, applying for jobs, enrolling their children in school, applying for a driver's license if they have a car, finding medical care, legal help, and understanding the maze of social services that might be available. …

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