Dear Friends in Teaneck,
Not long after I became president of Fairleigh Dickinson, I met a young Colombian refugee who came to the University to study and play soccer. But before he could enroll, Danny had to work at minimum wage to pay for English-language lessons.
And, there are many like him, who have recently immigrated and who are intellectually qualified for college, but who do not yet have sufficient English language skills. The growth, in particular, of the Hispanic population in our region has been substantial (New Jersey ranks in the top 10 in the nation), but higher education has failed to respond to their needs.
Inspired by Danny, FDU created Puerta al Futuro, or Gateway to the Future, an evening and Saturday associate in arts degree program for Spanish-speaking adults.
The first year combines intensive English-language training with college-level course work taught entirely in Spanish. In the second year, students continue English-language studies while taking courses in English and Spanish with bilingual faculty. By the third year, all courses are taught completely in English.
Students can go on to enroll in FDU’s bachelor degree programs and continue through the master of administrative science program if they wish. The Puerta program is offered at our Metropolitan Campus in Teaneck as well as other locations throughout New Jersey.
The response has been tremendous. The program began with 53 students and has grown to include more than 500 adult learners.
FDU further established the Latino Promise program, which provides extra support for traditional-aged, Spanish-speaking students who complete high school in the United States and are from bilingual households. We also help educate students and their communities about the importance of college by offering workshops on important subjects like financial aid. This program too has proven very popular and now supports more than 300 students.
And Puerta al Futuro’ssuccess has spawned other important efforts. For example, our MiraeRo! program was created for recent immigrants from South Korea, and our Cheng Gong program was developed for Chinese-speaking students.
Language should not be a barrier to college admission or career achievement. It merely takes a creative and innovative approach to educate students and to offer the support and the skills they need to be productive members of society.
J. Michael Adams is the president of Fairleigh Dickinson University and the International Association of University Presidents. For more information about Puerta al Futuro, see www.fdu.edu/puerta.