A Comparative Guide to Adult First-Generation Immigrants Seeking English as a Second Language Programs at Educational Institutions



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Background: First-generation immigrants aspire to learn English to satisfy an inherent need to fulfill their dreams and become valuable members of society. Learning English as a second language (ESL) is essential to the first-generation immigrants and the economy of the country that is witnessing dwindling numbers of laborers as baby boomers retire. Immigrants contribute significantly to the U.S. economy by being part of the workforce, paying taxes, and contributing to the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, ESL programs in the United States are varied, and adults enrolling in these programs may not know the benefits and deficits of each program. Purpose: First-generation immigrants must find a reliable source of information that will guide them to ESL programs that align with their objectives. They need to be proficient in English to communicate socially, continue their education, and get better employment. A comparative study of programs offered at local universities and colleges will clarify each program's characteristics and point out any existing gaps. This comparative study attempts to answer the following question: What are the differences, if any, in the ESL programs for first-generation immigrants provided in a large urban area? Method: This research is a qualitative review of the ESL programs at five public and private educational institutions (EIs) in the Houston metropolitan area. They were compared in terms of duration of each ESL level, the instructors’ qualifications, technology provided, advising and career services available, and fees and financial aid. Data was accessed online and by contacting the educational institutions. First, this study evaluated the ESL programs in terms of the five variables. Second, it tried to find alignment between the five variables and the purpose behind learning ESL. Results: Findings revealed discrepancies between the five EIs in the duration of ESL programs, instructors’ qualifications, the services provided by advisors, and fees of programs. Data regarding the purpose of learning ESL at 4-year institutes was mainly academic with absence of career pathways or alignment with labor force. At 2-year institutes, more options are available for English learners who want to join the workforce or continue their education through partnerships between employers and educational programs.



Keywords: educational institution, English as a second language, First-generation immigrant, Workforce,