Maryland community colleges have added English as a Second Language and GED programs to serve a growing number of immigrant students.
At Prince George’s Community College’s (PGCC) International Education Center, health care careers is the most popular program for immigrant students. But many need to improve their English. “PGCC and four other community colleges in Maryland created an accelerated program—modeled on Washington state’s I-Best program—that provides language and skills training,” reports Community College Times.
In addition to Latinos, PGCC draws students from Africa and other countries.
About 25 percent of the nation’s 6.5 million degree-seeking community college students were foreign born in 2004-05, according to a U.S. Education Department report.
California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to shift adult education from K-12 districts to community colleges, but the Legislature may not go alone, reports the Oakland Tribune.
The plan would give community colleges an additional $300 million to set up similar adult education programs, including high school diploma or equivalency courses, vocational education and citizenship classes. College leaders note the amount is less than half of what the state spent on adult schools five years ago, and that colleges have no experience running some of these programs.
“We’ve never been in the business of doing GED (the high school diploma equivalent), nor have we done anything with citizenship,” said Ron Galatolo, chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District.
Under the governor’s proposal, school districts would continue to get the same funding, but could shift the money to other uses. In Oakland, which has a 27 percent dropout rate, the district plans to close its GED programs if it isn’t required to serve adult students.
. . . the nonpartisan state Legislative Analyst’s Office cites “major problems” with the plan and urges the Legislature to instead invest the money in a special fund for adult education, managed by K-12 school districts.
. . . For years, community colleges have also offered remedial courses, including English as a second language, but have generally targeted higher-skilled students, while adult schools — often in courses set up at a school or community center — have worked with school dropouts and recent immigrants and refugees, including those unable to read or write.
Proponents argue adult education students could move more easily to job training and college classes, if they started at community colleges. Colleges could contract with existing adult ed programs rather than design their own classes.
Alan Aleman, a Mexico-born “Dream” student was among Michelle Obama’s guests for the State of the Union address. Aleman, a student at the College of Southern Nevada, was one of the first in Nevada to sign up for deferred action for undocumented youth, which includes a renewable work permit. Aleman hopes to join the Air Force and become a doctor.
Eliana Osborn has a hard-working, competent, front-row student who’s taking the English class for the fifth time, she writes on The Two-Year Track.
She’s learned from her many failures and seems to be doing things right on Attempt 5. I respect that. I’m not cutting her any breaks, but she doesn’t need them. She’s learned about herself and how to be a good student. I asked her why she keeps coming and trying after so many disappointing semesters.
“I have to do this,” she told me with steely eyes. “I don’t have a choice. I have to get an education for my family.”
Teaching on the U.S.-Mexico border, she has many low-income students who speak English as a second language. “As I read their papers and learn about their lives, I am impressed again and again by their perseverance,” Osborn writes.
In Dreaming Big, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) recommends ways for community colleges to serve a new wave of young immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, announced by the Obama administration in June, will let undocumented immigrants who arrived as children stay in the U.S. and work legally, if they meet educational and other requirements. Many are expected to enroll in community colleges.
The report deals with increasing college access, extending financial aid to make college affordable, supporting college readiness and success, offering alternatives for adult learners and improving college retention and completion.
Young illegal immigrants began applying this week for two-year stays on deportation and renewable work permits. But high school dropouts aren’t eligible — unless they’re enrolled in classes leading to a GED or a job. That could mean a big demand for community college classes.
Applicants must have been younger than 31 when the administration policy was announced on June 15, brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and in the country for five years or more. Applicants must also be high school graduates or GED holders or be enrolled in school. Those convicted of a “serious” crime are not eligible.
Up to 1.76 million people are eligible or will be when they turn 15, estimates the Migration Policy Institute.
College students represent just a small share of young illegal immigrants, Roberto Gonzales, a University of Chicago sociology professor, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some 350,000 high school drop-outs could qualify by enrolling in a program before filing an application.
One student who plans to apply is Karla Campos, 25, who came from Mexico about 16 years ago and is working on her GED. Her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter dream of attending college, and she used to worry that she wouldn’t be able to afford to help them do so—several employers turned her away because she was not authorized to work.
Now that she is eligible for a work permit, Ms. Campos is confident that she can make higher education a reality for her children. She would now like to go to college, too, though it’s too soon to say what her major would be.
Enrollment in a GED program or an “education, literacy, or career training program (including vocational training) that is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment” would qualify non-graduates, according to federal guidelines. Dropouts can choose federal or state-funded programs or programs “administered by providers of demonstrated effectiveness, such as institutions of higher education, including community colleges, and certain community-based organizations.”
If dropouts enroll in community college, get a deferral and then fail to complete the program — a likely outcome for poorly prepared students — could they enroll again in two years when their deferral runs out? The deferrals are based on Obama administration policy, not law, so it’s hard to know.
President Obama’s quasi-amnesty for young illegal immigrants doesn’t require college attendance or military service, according to Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano’s memo. Applicants who came illegally by age 16 and are 30 or younger must pass a background check showing no felonies or multiple misdemeanors. In addition, the applicant must be: “currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.” Those who qualify will be able to get two-year work permits renewable indefinitely.
“In school” seems to refer to high school. Would dropouts qualify if they enroll in GED or basic skills classes at a community college? Do they have to pass their classes?
The military provision is a bit puzzling: Illegal immigrants aren’t eligible to serve in the military. However, a few use fraudulent papers to enlist. The order doesn’t say whether those who qualify for temporary work permits will be allowed to serve in the military. If so, would their service qualify them for citizenship? I can’t imagine denying citizenship to military veterans.
In May, speaking at the commencement of Miami Dade College‘s commencement ceremonies, President Obama reaffirmed his support for the Dream Act, which provides a path to citizenship for young immigrants who complete two years of college or serve in the military in the six years after qualifying for conditional legal status. The executive order doesn’t promise citizenship.
Congress has refused to pass the Dream Act, which would offer a path to citizenship to young illegal immigrants who enroll in college or serve in the military. But today President Obama ordered a halt to deportations for people under 30 who arrived illegally before the age of 16 and lived in the U.S. for five years. Immigrants must be high school graduates or GED holders with no criminal record, be enrolled in postsecondary education or serve in the military. (Presumably college graduates would be eligible.) Immigrants who qualify will be able to apply for work permits.
While young immigrants won’t get a path to legal status and citizenship, they’ll be able to apply for a two-year “deferred action” that removes the threat of deportation for up to two years, with repeated extensions. “This is not immunity, it is not amnesty,” said Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. “It is an exercise of discretion.”
The order will cover about 800,000 people, the administration estimates. Counting children under 18 with undocumented status, it will affect up to 1.4 million immigrants, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. It could persuade young Latinos to stay in high school or, at least, to earn a GED. Since many immigrants enroll in community college — and those who are’t in school can easily do so — the order could lead to an enrollment surge at community colleges.
A Republican alternative to the DREAM Act creates a path to citizenship for children brought illegally to the U.S. — if they complete a bachelor’s degree. But the STARS (Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status) Act, introduced by Florida Rep. David Rivera, doesn’t have broad Republican support.
(The bill) would grant alien conditional nonimmigrant status to those who have been in the U.S. at least five years at the time of the bill’s enactment, were brought to the U.S. younger than 16 years old, have earned a high school diploma or GED, have been admitted to an accredited four-year college, and are of “good moral character.”
Upon graduation, a student could apply for a five-year visa renewal, followed by applying for permanent residency and eventually citizenship.
Students who fail to graduate would lose their conditional status.
A separate Rivera bill, the ARMS (Adjusted Residency for Military Service) Act creates a path to citizenship through military service.
By contrast, the DREAM Act requires two years of college — graduation is not required — or two years of military service. That’s a much lower bar.
Most immigrant students who go to college start at a community college. Those who are undocumented aren’t eligible for state or federal aid. Few go on to complete a bachelor’s degree. Of course, STARS might motivate more students to seek a four-year degree, but it ignores other productive paths. Military service would provide another option, but not everyone is healthy enough to serve.
Latino students are struggling to complete community college and move on to a university, reports the Long Beach Press-Telegram. While more students are enrolling, it’s taking longer to graduate — or not.
Gerardo Raya enrolled in college in 2008 with the hopes of graduating in four years and scoring a job as an animator or illustrator.
But four years later, Raya is still at Long Beach City College struggling to finish the minimal coursework he needs to transfer to a four-year university.
The 24-year-old said he’s had trouble balancing his work as a recreational aide for a local high school while trying to study for a full load of classes. He’s had to drop classes over the years due to work conflicts and financial problems, but Raya said he’s hopeful he can transfer to Cal State Long Beach next year.
Raya is not alone. The college transfer rate for Latino students is about half that of white students — 14 percent compared with 28 percent — according to the Campaign for College Opportunity, based in California. Only 20 percent of Latino students in community college complete an associate degree or transfer after six years, compared to 37 percent of whites.
“Over half of the children in public schools are Latino, and these are the people who are going to make up our future workforce,” said Michele Siqueiros, the campaign’s executive director.
A grant from the Lumina Foundation is helping funding LBCC’s Promise Pathways Initiative, which starts in the fall. The college is working with Long Beach Unified, which is now 64 percent Latino, to “align college and high school courses, establish assessments and early interventions, and encourage more students to take transfer-level courses in math and English in their first semester,” reports the Press-Telegram. LBCC already partners with the school district and Cal State Long Beach to offer the College Promise, which includes a free first semester at LBCC.
Why do so few Latinos graduate? Blogger Donald Douglas, a political science professor at LBCC, blames weak K-12 preparation and work habits. “Top that off with a lot of kids coming from recent immigrant families, often the first in their family to attend college (and there’s less linguistic and knowledge-based support in the home environment), and the basic foundation of learning isn’t as strong as it might be in other demographics.”