Brandman University's campus in Irvine, Calif.Brandman UniversityBrandman University’s campus in Irvine, Calif.
The pathway to higher education can be blocked for some would-be students because they are not proficient enough in English to succeed in a traditional college. And as they grow older, they may find their opportunities further constrained by their lack of a degree.
Brandman University, a nonprofit institution that serves about 11,000 students on 26 campuses in California and Washington, announced Tuesday that it would introduce a new program on some of its campuses aimed specifically at Hispanic students who have not mastered English. The program, which the university’s chancellor, Gary Brahm, called Dual Language English Immersion, was described Tuesday on the Web sites of The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education.
Mr. Brahm said in an interview on Wednesday that he considered reaching out to oft-overlooked Hispanic students to be part of the university’s mission “to provide nontraditional students the same opportunity for quality education that traditional students have.”
“On average, about 30 percent of the general population has a bachelor’s degree, and 13 percent of the Hispanic population has a bachelor’s,” Mr. Brahm said. “We need to be more successful at educating this group, and we think that this approach has a very strong likelihood of having a very profound impact.”
The program will initially offer degrees in psychology, business administration and criminal justice, with the hope of eventually expanding into more areas of instruction. Classes will start in Spanish and introduce more English over time.
“It’s to teach them English at the same time we’re teaching them the subject matter,” Mr. Brahm said. “So by the time they graduate they will be not only proficient in their subject matter, but in their subject matter in English.”
Mr. Brahm said the university hoped to start the new classes this fall. They will be taught on existing campuses with bilingual faculty members, many of whom still have to be hired. He thought the program could become a new college within the university, but said that there had been no decision on a name and that he could hazard no guess at the expected enrollment.
He said he did not believe that the new classes would unduly burden English-speaking students who are already enrolled or that they would strain the university’s resources because the new program was being financed by an investment fund called University Ventures (the fund is backed by Bertelsmann, the German media and publishing conglomerate, and two endowments from public university systems in Texas). He said he was unsure of the cost, but said creating the new classes could take an investment of about $15 million.
Mr. Brahm said students typically paid $30,000 to take 60 course credits at Brandman University, though many come after attaining a degree at a community college. He said he was not yet certain how much a degree from the new program would cost on average, but thought that it could be significantly more than the 60-credit program because many students would start the program as freshmen.
Still, he stressed that affordability would be a central part of the program.
“Just because you have the bad timing to be college age right now, they still need that opportunity,” he said. “And we do it in an affordable way, and nowadays as you know affordability is access.”