Ameritas College, an innovative venture aimed at Hispanic adults, is offering a
new pathway to higher education with the potential to increase degree-completion
rates for this underserved population. If the concept succeeds, it could provide
a much-needed boost to closing the achievement gap that threatens the country's
Officials of Brandman University, a nonprofit private institution in California that developed and launched the new college, have put together curricula and support systems to help Latino adults accelerate their studies toward an associate or bachelor's degree. Ameritas blends online and inperson instruction to serve busy Latinos who are balancing time and money concerns while also dealing with family and work commitments.
"With only 7 percent of Hispanics ages 25 and older in California with a bachelor's college degree, it is clear our current system is not meeting their higher education needs," said Gary Brahm, chancellor of Brandman University. "We recognize Latino adults value their time with their families, closely watch their budgets and understand the need and benefit of having a college degree - that is why everything we do and provide has these values in mind and responds to their needs."
Ameritas College has opened campuses in the Southern California area including Ontario, Palm Desert, Victorville and Moreno Valley. Students can earn bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice and psychology, as well as an Associate of Arts degree in general education. The structure requires students to meet for a three-hour class on campus one evening per week and dien complete and additional 2.5 hours of online instruction. All faculty members are bilingual, but most of the instruction is in English. There is year-round enrollment with the first class having started in August 2012.
For students who need to build language skills, Ameritas offers Latino working adults the chance to meet two objectives at one time: earn a degree and master college-level English. In providing this option, Ameritas joins a handful of colleges that are reaching out to offer dual-language degree programs to the Hispanic community. Ameritas has hired bilingual enrollment advisors who work with students to assist them with academic goals, program options and educational financing. If it is successful in graduating more adult Latinos, Ameritas might serve as a model for the entire sector.
"True innovation is rare, especially in higher education,'' said Bralmi. "That is why what we are doing at Ameritas College is so important."
The college has raised its profile by garnering support among Hispanic educators and attracting individuals such as Sara Martinez Tucker, former under secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, to serve as chair of its educational services board. She has been championing the concept by touting the new venture as a way to help working Hispanic adults break the cycle of undereducation and gain the preparation to effectively compete in a multicultural workforce.
"We are making a college degree accessible and opening the doors of opportunity and progress to all Hispanic adults," Martinez Tucker said. "Whether it is a working adult looking to advance his career or an employer looking to develop and strengthen her workforce, Ameritas College brings a viable educational
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