CMC to charge for ESL classes
DILLON – If the best things in life are free, Colorado Mountain College’s English instruction is about to drop off the list.Beginning in the spring, 2006 semester, the college will charge fees for its noncredit English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, currently offered free to non-native students.The college has yet to decide the amount of and collection mechanisms for the fees, but CMC officials hope to work out those details by early fall so they’ll be ready to start charging for classes that start in January.”It’s been a really difficult conversation across the college,” said Peggy Curry, dean of CMC’s Vail/Eagle Valley campus, home to the college’s largest ESL student population, with about 500 students.
Across CMC’s 12 campuses, including Summit County, the college spends about $1 million on ESL offerings. This summer, the Summit campus is offering 14 ESL classes, in which 207 students are enrolled.”The feeling is there’s a need for the students to pay something. The days are gone when we can continue to put out a million dollars and not have anything coming in,” Curry said.According to Curry, officials have proposed structuring the fees to cover 25 percent of the program’s cost. To meet that goal, the average student would have to pay about $100 for a 15-week course.”If they charge, I would still keep coming, because I want to learn – I like to learn,” said Valdete Santos, a Brazilian woman enrolled in Advanced ESL at CMC’s Dillon facility. “But it would depend on how much they charge. Will I have to work more to pay another bill? And I can tell you, in May and June, no one will come, because that’s when we don’t have jobs.”Locally, immigrant advocates are worried that charging tuition will limit access to ESL classes, and the end result will be fewer immigrants learning English.
“I think it’s really important that people who come to this country have the opportunity to learn English,” said Lynda Fox, board president of Summit County’s Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC). “Eleven percent of our year-round population was born in other countries, and they play a vital role in our community – the ski industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, landscaping, construction. When I go to City Market, almost everyone there is an immigrant. As a community, it’s well worth our while to have tuition-free classes readily accessible.”According to Curry, the college’s ESL program is relatively “labor-intensive,” and therefore costly, making it difficult for officials to justify offering the classes free of charge. “Other programs get less because we’re putting such an enormous investment into the ESL program. We do not have the dollars to initiate new programs, so this starts to be a deficit for new program development and adding faculty. We’ve got to be realistic about the future,” Curry said.However, the administration of tuition fee collection will only add to the program’s labor costs.
“Collecting the money is going to add to the cost. This is probably going to be a one-year trial, and the college will take another look at it to see if we were better off before or after, to see if anyone has been denied access. We absolutely want access for these students,” Curry said.Officials plan to implement a scholarship program to assist financially strapped students, but specifics aren’t available yet on where the funds will come from or how they will be distributed.The CMC Board of Trustees is not scheduled to address the issue, since ESL is a noncredit program.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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