College expands bilingual programs to meet demand

How Milwaukee Area Technical College and Dalton State are meeting needs of growing communities

Milwaukee Area Technical College is expanding courses and degree programs it offers bilingually and in Spanish, as it strives for designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The college stands out among institutions in Wisconsin for its bilingual associate’s degrees in fields such as dental and medical assistant, and an early childhood education degree taught entirely in Spanish, says Wilma Bonaparte, the president’s liaison for the school’s Hispanic-Serving initiative.

“We want to create an environment where our students feel welcome, where they feel a sense of belonging,” says Bonaparte, noting that the Hispanic community is the only population growing steadily in the Milwaukee area.

The college has added new scholarships to reach the 25% Hispanic undergraduate enrollment threshold that would qualify it as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Hispanic enrollment at the school has grown from 16.7% in 2016 to 20.6% this year.

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The college provides orientations, career exploration, tutoring and test proctoring bilingually and in Spanish, and has opened a satellite campus in the heart of the city’s Hispanic community.

“Retention is improving because more resources have been developed,” Bonaparte says. “We’ve translated our website, some of our services and marketing into Spanish, and the student are responding and enrolment is increasing.”

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Among the challenges of offering more and more degree programs and courses bilingually is hiring faculty that can translate course materials into Spanish, Bonaparte says.

“These faculty are sometimes doing double the work because the curriculum is issued to them in English,” she says.

In the last few years, college leaders have also developed a cultural competence campaign for faculty and staff.

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“Sometimes, just a simple gesture, a non-verbal cue or comment can be perceived like we are not welcome,” Bonaparte says. “We cannot allow that, particularly in education, which creates upward mobility for our community.”

Bilingual boost for parents

Dalton State College, the only Hispanic-Serving institution in Georgia, focuses its bilingual efforts on outreach to parents, says Jodi S. Johnson, the vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.

Students have to be proficient in English to enroll, but the college provides a range of services to parents in Spanish, including financial aid workshops and orientation sessions.

The college is now working to translate its entire website into Spanish, Johnson says.

“We had to reach out to the community,” Johnson says. “We couldn’t sit back and expect them to come to us.”

The college also received a Title V Hispanic-serving grant last year to improve retention and graduation rates.  The college has used the funding to create an academic coaching program and to expand tutoring and supplemental instruction.

The academic coaches will help students decide on their majors or switch majors in they are not succeeding in their initial choice, Johnson says.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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