DataPoints: Coming to America


Community colleges serve a diverse student population, including students who have immigrated to the United States and students who grew up speaking languages other than English. These students often face unique challenges on their path to a college degree or credential. Supporting their educational attainment enriches our campus communities and strengthens our country as a whole.

Community college students are more likely to be first- or second-generation immigrants and non-native English-speaking students than students in any four-year college sector.

Well over one-third (37.3%) of public community college students are first-generation immigrants (13.8%) or have at least one foreign-born parent (23.5%), according to new data from the National Center for Education Statistics. By comparison, fewer than one-third of students attending public four-year colleges and universities (32.9%), private, not-for-profit four-year colleges and universities (28.9%) or for-profit four-year colleges and universities (30.8%) are first-generation of have at least one foreign-born parent.

Public community college students were also the least likely of those in any sector to have exclusively English language as the first language they learned to speak. More than a quarter (27.3%) reported that a language other than English was at least partially the first language they learned to speak. In addition, nearly one-quarter of the community college students state that they spoke a language other than English at least half of the time with their primary caregiver while in high school. 

About the Author

Kent Phillippe
Kent Phillippe is vice president for research and student success at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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