What's made rates of degree attainment for immigrant students spike? A recent Christian Science Monitor article featured Enroot’s work and our students, written by Jasmine Heyward.
A college education bestows undeniable career advantages. What can be learned from the astonishing successes of immigrant students in the US over the last 30 years?
“At Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) in Cambridge, Mass., students flood into the international student center after the bell rings, marking the end of the school day.
One of them is Nafis Rahman, a high school senior from Bangladesh who arrived in the United States in 2016. After spending his first year in classes specifically for English-language learners, he’s now able to take courses with the mainstream students at CRLS. His favorite: Advanced Placement Computer Science.
Greeting him and others are staff from Enroot, a nonprofit that works with immigrant high school students in Cambridge and Somerville, Mass. They pepper the students with questions: Are you coming to the leadership workshop this week? When was the last time you talked to your mentor?
It’s the kind of holistic approach that students like Nafis say they find helpful. He has received tutoring, mentoring, and an internship from Enroot – and is now applying to college.
“Tomorrow I’m going to submit applications to all the UMass [schools] and WPI,” he says, referring to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass.
Across the country, the education levels of immigrants have been steadily rising over the past several decades, partly because of programs like Enroot that focus on providing long-term support. In 1980, about 16 percent of immigrants had earned a bachelor’s degree. By 2016, the number grew to 30 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. This increase has all but closed the gap between immigrants and US-born residents: 31.6 percent of those born in the US have a bachelor’s degree.
While immigrants from South and East Asia are most likely to hold a bachelor’s degree, and college graduates from those groups are more likely to remain in the US to work, educational attainment is rising among all ethnicities and origin countries. For example, the number of Mexican immigrants 25 and older with a high school diploma has more than doubled since 1980 – from 11.4 to 25.2 percent. Experts say it’s necessary to take the long view to see those numbers rise more.
Educators who work with immigrant students, especially at the high school level, say it’s necessary to take the long view to see those numbers rise even more.
Sandra Cañas, Enroot’s Cambridge program director, has found that many of the immigrant students who arrive at CRLS are highly driven and hold themselves to high standards but need extra resources as they adjust to a new learning experience.
“Some of the students come with one parent, and they don’t have the support or the guidance they need to make decisions in regards to school issues,” she says. “The whole process is so daunting ... we feel that it is important that students get the support they need for whatever they want to do.”’