Thursday, April 26, 2012


First Things First

We have a grant-funded program designed to get students with severe educational deficits into basic skills programs, and then into “contextualized” remediation that leads into short-term employable certificates.  The idea is to help folks who would normally be consigned to the economic margins to become employable at higher, if still fairly modest, levels.  

The concept is good, broadly speaking.  And it’s easy enough to measure success: did students wind up with better-paying jobs, or not?  If students get jobs, the theory goes, then we’re doing something right; if they don’t, we aren’t.  

But we’ve hit a snag.  And it’s not just the economy and the general lack of hiring, as relevant as those are.

How do you measure the success of a job training program when many of the students aren’t legally eligible to work in America?

Until recently, this wasn’t much of a problem for us; those students couldn’t get financial aid, so most of them didn’t enroll.  But with the idea of “bridging” from community-based programs to the college, we’re suddenly confronted with large numbers of students in those programs who don’t have citizenship or documentation.

If they move through unencumbered, they’ll hit an employment wall upon graduation, and count as program failure.  If they don’t make it through, they count as attrition and count as program failure.


Heads we lose, and tails we lose.  And so do the students.

Heartbreakingly, this is not a small number of people we’re talking about.  The community-based programs have long waiting lists of people who want to learn English and work.  You know that bumper sticker that says “Welcome to America, now learn English?”  That’s exactly what they’re trying to do.  And it’s exactly the kind of service that community colleges should be doing.

In a rational world, this would be the kind of program to expand.  Instead, we’re wringing our hands about the economy while preventing people who are here from becoming economically productive.

One could argue, of course, that illegal immigrants are not the proper targets of education.  But that seems like arguing that teenagers shouldn’t be impulsive or rich people shouldn’t be selfish; it may make sense in the abstract, but the facts on the ground simply are what they are.  And I’d much, much, much rather see people move into the aboveground economy and provide for their kids than languish on the margins, on the waitlists of programs that would be blackballed for serving them.

At base, this shouldn’t be a college problem.  But since our politics seem to insist on reducing community colleges to job placement centers, this is the direction of things.  

Can you imagine how much economic activity -- tax revenue, if you prefer -- would be unleashed if we passed the DREAM act, and allowed illegal immigrants to become legal by getting college degrees or serving honorably in the military?  People could come in from the cold.  They could move into the aboveground economy, thereby reducing the spoils for the bottom-feeding predators out there.  They’d learn English, get jobs, pay taxes, and raise their kids in more stable environments.  The payoff would play out over generations.

Instead, we worry about a lack of economic growth, the things that desperate people do when they’re desperate, and whether the local community college’s job placement statistics are good.

They won’t be as good as they should be, no matter how brilliantly we teach, if nobody can hire the students.  First things first.

Rock, meet hard place.

Thanks for the reminder of one more reason your job isn't entirely about herding cats.
"One could argue, of course, that illegal immigrants are not the proper targets of education."

Indeed. One could argue that free college education is part of what draws illegals to this country, creating this problem.

USA Today reports that half of our citizens with college degrees who are under age 25 are unemployed or underemployed in jobs that don't require college degrees.

You would like to use scarce tax dollars to add still more people to this oversaturated labor pool? How about if we take care of our own citizens first?

We're not in the 20th century any more. Let's face some realities, notably the evaporation of jobs for our young citizens.

Instead of using precious tax dollars for educating illegals, let's focus on bringing up the skill levels of lower income Americans, especially African Americans, who are suffering horrendous unemployment rates.
Good God I love you Dean Dad... preach brother.. preach.
"Rich people shouldn’t be selfish".
Really? Why is this statement OK to make, but saying anything negative about various other groups is unacceptable hate speech.

While I cannot recall the source, I am fairly certain OI have seen statistics that the many of the "rich", are very generous with the time and money when supporting a wide variety of charities.
First Things First principle which represents the definitive approach to the subject of Time Management.
@Anonymous 8:20 PM - How about rephrasing it to, "People shouldn't be selfish"?
The first law of economics is that people are selfish. There is a reason that covetous (greedy) behavior is addressed many different ways in the Bible and most other religions I know of. That is why I don't understand religious leaders who endorse candidates who reject the Shared part of shared sacrifice.

I admit to not understanding the implication that children who grew up here after being brought here illegally are somehow parasites. Their parents rented from someone who paid property and income taxes, just like any other poor person and their labor contributed to other wealth that was taxed to pay for schools. Some could very well have contributed more than regular citizens, and you don't have to teach college very long to appreciate how hard immigrants work in school.
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