Many community colleges are really two colleges in one, with a credit side of the house and a non-credit side. Few foreign-educated students are aware of or understand the difference. Yet both sides offer options that may be attractive to this student population.
Bridging The Credit vs. Non-Credit Divide
In order for immigrant students to make an informed choice about a flexible career pathway that is right for them, it is essential that foreign-educated immigrants receive advice that spans both credit and non-credit programs. The non-credit options and the living wage jobs for which they prepare students can serve as stepping stones to higher-skill positions for foreign-educated students who may not be able to afford, in the short-term, to enroll in a credit-based degree program or to embark on the arduous process of obtaining professional licensure in their field in the U.S. For students interested in vocational programs, it is also crucial that you help them identify credentials that are recognized and accepted by the industry in which they plan to work.
If you are an academic advisor, are you able to provide advice that spans the credit vs. non-credit divide? Do you know what’s offered by your college’s division of continuing education and your college’s workforce development programs? If you don’t, you may be short-changing your foreign-educated students, especially those who need to quickly earn an industry-recognized “stackable credential” leading to a better paying job and to a career ladder.
Academic and Career Advisors
At Miami Dade College’s New Student Center, prospective students meet in-person with a pre-college advisor who is trained to be able to advise students on the full range of credit and non-credit options available at the college, as well as the pros and cons of choosing a particular credit or non-credit pathway. In fact, MDC has gone the distance and merged the role of academic and career advisor. These “Academic and Career Advisors” receive extensive training on both academic and career development pathways in recognition of the fact that an academic path needs to lead to a career. And, in an effort to make sure that working students are able to take advantage of these enhanced advising services, these advisors are available until 7 p.m. and some weekends.
At Westchester Community College, a health care career advisor has at her fingertips information about the full array of credit and non-credit offerings in the health care field. Many of these short-term, non-credit health care options at WCC – Certified Nurse Assistant(CNA), Patient Care Technician(PCT), Phlebotomy – can lead to jobs where students can make connections that will be useful to them later on. The fact that foreign-educated students are bilingual is often a real plus and can help them eventually get better jobs, since bilingual candidates are in demand in many health care settings.