Blogpost: Dreaming Big Report Offers Guidance to Community Colleges on Immigrant Integration

By Kyle Southern

As the baby boom generation moves into retirement, immigrants and their children will account for the entirety of U.S. labor force growth between 2010 and 2030.  A recent report by the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE) cites this finding of the Migration Policy Institute to highlight the importance of improved access to higher education and workforce preparation for immigrant and first-generation students.  Community colleges will continue to play a critical role in enhancing workforce readiness for the next generation of all Americans, and CCCIE provides several recommendations for institutions to consider as they create more inclusive environments to accommodate the diverse needs of their student populations.

Research cited by CCCIE supports more intentional efforts by community colleges to integrate undocumented students.  Under the Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, college enrollment is one qualification for young undocumented students to pursue education and go on to contribute in the workforce.  In the coming years and decades, the importance of postsecondary education will only increase.  According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce two-thirds of all jobs in the United States will require some form of credential beyond a high school diploma by 2018.  By offering in-state tuition to undocumented students and support all immigrant students in their pursuit of postsecondary success, community colleges can serve as primary access points to the American dream.

To support these students, the CCCIE report makes several primary recommendations:

  1. Increase college access by strengthening ties between community colleges and local K-12 systems, reaching out to prospective undocumented students, supporting undocumented students with mentoring once they matriculate, and involving the community to encourage college attendance.
  2. Make college affordable by sharing financial aid information with undocumented students, increasing available funds for scholarship opportunities, and funding scholarship-based internships for students.
  3. Support college readiness and success by designating staff members to advise undocumented students, providing professional development to staff on those students’ needs and challenges, and engaging parents in the college-going process.
  4. Involve adult learners by providing English language instruction, career counseling, and online learning support.
  5. Improve college retention and completion by encouraging leadership development among immigrant students, providing academic, social, and emotional support systems, expanding on-campus awareness of undocumented student issues, and enhancing four-year college transfer and workplace connections.

 

The Dreaming Big report represents a crucial resource for community college leaders and scholars as they address the often complex and contentious issues associated with immigrant student access to postsecondary educational opportunities.  The report demonstrates investments in these students more than pay for themselves in terms of increased tax revenue when graduates enter the workforce in higher-paying jobs and reduced strain on the social welfare and criminal justice systems.  Beyond these societal benefits, CCCIE’s research also charts a course for community colleges to play a leading role in strengthening America’s economy in the twenty-first century.

 

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