Burden on Colleges to Boost Hispanic Educational Attainment
11/15/12 3:13 PM
By Mike Lesczinski, Excelsior Life News Staff
“The lack of educational attainment among Hispanics is one of the biggest crises in the American labor force with far-reaching implications for the economy.”
-Craig Torres, BusinessWeek, November 14, 2012
To meet the Obama administration’s goal of a stronger, more educated workforce through degree completion, institutes of higher learning have been seeking out solutions to one of their pressing contemporary challenges to achieving this goal – how to meet the needs of America’s rapidly expanding Hispanic community.
Excelsior College counts more than 8 percent of its 37,000 strong student population as Hispanic; 7.2 percent are considered non-native English speakers. (In total, more than 13,000 Excelsior students are members of minority groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education.)
Reaching traditionally underserved adult students has been a top priority of the college since its inception in 1971. In addition to several initiatives currently in the works, in the coming weeks Excelsior will rollout ESL-WOW, a free, publicly available resource for all non-native English speakers struggling with college-level writing. The project, funded with a $581,600 grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), will be housed within the Excelsior College Online Writing Lab (OWL).
Demand for ESL training is increasing to crisis-levels. Approximately 1.8 million immigrants enter the United States each year, many with limited language skills. At the same time, “funding has not kept pace” according to Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
“If we are going to boost educational attainment of not only Hispanics, but all non-native English speakers, colleges must place a sharper focus on making college more accessible to those for whom English is a second language,” said Claire Siskin, ESL-WOW project director.