ECC to Offer Free ESL Classes
Byline: Kerry Lester and Elena Ferrarin For Reflejos
Courses in English as a Second Language will be tuition free at Elgin Community College next year under a plan approved recently by the colleges board of education.
The move, along with other changes to the program, is designed to make the courses more accessible to local residents, officials say.
"We know many of our students are not economically positioned to pay," Dean of Adult Education Peggy Heinrich said. "We also know that as more and more jobs require some level of postsecondary education, our students need to be able to complete advanced English language courses."
A majority of students in the program dropped out after finishing free beginner and intermediate courses, Heinrich said, rather than enroll in the advanced courses costing more than $500 apiece. Although the colleges ESL program serves about 3,000 students each year, only 28 students completed the highest level courses last year.
Last year, the board voted to make both the beginner and intermediate classes free. "Since that time, weve seen a steady rise in enrollment on the intermediate classes," Heinrich said.
According to college data, the change resulted in an increase of 273 students and 1,785 more earned credits in the intermediate levels.
The majority of ESL students are Latinos, and primarily from Mexico, but there are also students from throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa, said Mary Lloyd, operations director of the Adult Basic Education Center, which encompasses ESL programs. …