Consortium Advises Community Colleges to Accommodate Immigrant Students
A recent report published by the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education encourages community colleges to educate and provide for immigrant students that will help them integrate into society and the workforce.
The report, “Increasing Opportunities for Immigrant Students,” asserts that education and career success are important to immigrants and their children who will make up a large part of the work force in the next two decades.
“Increasing the educational and occupational opportunities of immigrant students is vitally important for their assimilation into the fabric of the U.S., [and] this country needs the skills and talents that immigrants bring to the workplace,” said Dr. Amado Padilla, Professor and Chair of Developmental and Psychological Sciences at the School of Education in Stanford University.
Though the report does not recommend a precise strategy, it offers 11 key factors that guide colleges to create and maintain programs for immigrant students. Many of the Consortium’s 23 member community colleges have already implemented these key factors in their programs.
One of these member schools, Palm Beach State College, offers integrated student support services, a proactive outreach program, and a welcoming environment, which are part of the CCCIE’s key factors.
“People don’t always understand how to access different education opportunities in the U.S.,” said Dr. Jeannett Manzanero, director of the Dr. Kathryn W. Davis Global Education Center in Palm Beach State College, “We guide, advise, and refer [immigrant students] to programs in the college, so they can understand education, health systems and different services available in the community.”
Other colleges, have implemented key factors such as understanding an immigrant community’s needs, properly assessing students’ needs, developing immigrant student leadership skills, and improving ESL programs to effectively help students.
Padilla believes that these 11 key factors would provide a great environment for students to attend community college.
“Immigrant students have many barriers to overcome in higher education and programs designed to address some of these challenges will pay huge benefits in the future,” said Padilla
Dr. Claude Goldenberg, a professor at the Stanford School of Education, is a little more cautious about the effectiveness of the CCCIE’s suggestions.
“It’s difficult to do the sort of research that would nail down definitively if programs that employ this framework are more effective than programs that don't,” Goldenberg said, “Some factors are probably more important than others. Focusing on outcomes and evaluation is probably key.”
While the CCCIE report concerns community colleges, Goldenberg says that there is also an issue with immigrant students in private and public colleges and universities.
“Some immigrants are deprived of opportunities to attend higher education,” Goldenberg said, “Once these students get to higher ed, if in fact they do, their record of success is mixed. Some of course do quite well, but others lack the experience, support, and family history to compete with their US-born peers.”
Despite the 11 key factors, any programs or opportunities can also pose challenges to the community colleges.
The Northern Virginia Community College, a Consortium member that works with the Northern Virginia Family Services in their Training Futures program, offers low-income or unemployed individuals college credit and the training to work in an office environment. However, according to Training Future co-founder and co-training coordinator Susan Craver, the program constantly needs fundraising and support to meet the higher expectations in the workforce.
“The biggest challenge is to raise money – we are not for profit, and we’re always fundraising and looking for resources,” said Craver, “Our people are graduating in a really tough job market. We’re being asked to go a whole lot more into depth into training.”
In spite of any problems, community colleges still plan to expand these programs.
The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, another Consortium member, provides workforce training and ESL to their students through their Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program. According to program administrator, Louisa Erickson, I-BEST plans to expand their projects into pre-college education and build upon a new program that will focus on the economy and employment opportunities for adults.
“The current definition of I-BEST will likely be enhanced and expanded by these pilots,” Erickson said, “This is the next step in the pre-college pathway, going beyond the original I-BEST focus of just the ABE/ESL population.”