Survey finds community colleges are investing in immigrant students, but more remains to be done

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, December 01, 2015

A new survey has for the first time provided a detailed portrait of how community colleges are serving immigrant students. Results from the National Survey on Increasing Opportunities for New Americans were released at a recent policy briefing hosted by the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education in Washington, DC.

National Skills Coalition’s Amanda Bergson-Shilcock was part of a panel discussing the survey findings. The discussion was moderated by Teresita Wisell, who serves both as CCCIE’s Executive Director and as Vice President for Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Westchester (NY) Community College.

Other panelists included:

  • Dr. Malou C. Harrison, President, North Campus, Miami Dade College
  • John Hunt, Executive Director for Adult Community Learning, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
  • Lul Tesfai, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, US Department of Education
  • Margie McHugh, Director, National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, Migration Policy Institute

The survey results were presented by Gautam Ramchandani, CEO of GlobalSource. More than 160 community college representatives in 33 states completed the survey. Key findings included:

  • Just over one-third of respondents (36%) report that their college’s strategic plan does explicitly address the needs of immigrant students and/or English Language Learners
  • Robust majorities of respondents reported that their colleges are successfully meeting the immigrants students’ needs for English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction (67%); pre-college developmental courses (65%); and academic support services (64%)
  • Far fewer respondents said that their colleges were equipped to provide job-related training and support for immigrant students. In particular, just 36% felt they has sufficient expertise and capacity to identify career pathways for immigrant students; only 25% had the capacity to track local employer workforce requirements in high-demand industries; and 24% had sufficient relationships with businesses and workforce agencies to help immigrant students connect to employment

Perhaps most notably, a full 73% of survey respondents reported “borderline to no capacity” at their institution to specifically isolate and track immigrant students’ progress. This finding is somewhat surprising given that colleges have increasingly embraced the idea of using data to analyze the outcomes of specific populations, such as students who are low-income; racial or ethnic minorities; or first-generation college-goers. 

Having conducted this survey, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) now plans to use the survey results to help guide its strategic activities and advocacy agenda in the coming year.

For example, to address the tracking issue, CCCIE has launched a Data Metrics Work Group. The work group is developing standardized definitions and protocols for colleges interested in analyzing their data to better understand immigrant students’ trajectories and barriers.

Further information about the study findings will be posted on the CCCIE website