College Success for Hispanic Adult Students

Supported by Lumina Foundation for Education

Teaneck, NJ (December 12, 2005) Puerta al Futuro, a program for Spanish-speaking adults leading to the Associate in Arts degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University, has received a $21,100 grant from Lumina Foundation for Education to develop and pilot “College Success,” a bilingual college skills course for Hispanic adult students.

“College study skills courses dot the landscape of higher education,” said Deborah Gonzalez, the director of Puerta al Futuro, “and in many cases are required for new college students. At Fairleigh Dickinson, a one-credit course “The Freshman Experience” is required of all students. It is effective with traditional undergraduates, but it is not adequate for adult Spanish-speaking students in the Puerta program — in part because of the language barrier for our entering students, but more importantly, because adult students have different learning styles, work and family situations, motivations, and constraints as they begin their college studies.”

The new “College Success” course will stress family and work obligations and be offered in a bilingual format. It will also address the differences between American and Latin American systems of education and cultural expectations about learning. For example, rather than simply identifying and quoting experts, as is common in Latin American systems, American higher education rewards analysis and the student’s own perspective. “College Success” will focus on investigative learning, analytical thought, and the use of secondary sources.

These needs are not unique to students at Fairleigh Dickinson. According to Gonzalez, a burgeoning Hispanic population in the region and across the country means that the number of Hispanic adults seeking higher education is also increasing, though this is a largely underserved population. “For example,” she said, “of the 621 institutions with first-year student programs in a national survey (by the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina), only nine offer programs that even acknowledge the experience of adult learners or ESL needs; none specifically target this population.”

The immediate audience for the “College Success” course is the Hispanic adult student at Fairleigh Dickinson. But Puerta al Futuro faculty is developing on-line, multi-media supplements that will make “College Success” available to a national audience. “We will disseminate the electronic curriculum,” said Gonzalez, “by sending a Web link to national networks in which we participate, including the Department of Education’s network of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), the White House Hispanic Education Commission, and the Committee on Latinos and Higher Education of the National Hispanic-Latino Agenda.

Lumina Foundation for Education, an Indianapolis-based, private foundation, is dedicated to expanding access and success in education beyond high school. For details, visit

To learn more about the Puerta al Futuro program, call 201 692 2625or e-mail

About Puerta al Futuro

Launched in 2003, the goal of FDU’s Puerto al Futuro (Gateway to the Future) program is to enable Spanish-speaking adults to earn an Associate in Arts degree while improving their English-language skills. In the first year, intensive English language training is combined with college-level coursework that is taught entirely in Spanish. In the second year, students continue the English language studies while taking courses in both English and Spanish — taught by bilingual faculty. In the final year, all courses are conducted in English.

After completing the 60-credit program, students have the credentials needed to transfer into a traditional baccalaureate program at Fairleigh Dickinson or another accredited college.

Puerta al Futuro was developed in cooperation with the Bergen Hispanic Business Association, the Institute for Latino Studies Research and Development, and the Morris County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Puerta al Futuro

Gretchen Johnson

Office of Public Relations
Fairleigh Dickinson University
1000 River Road
Mailstop H-DH3-15
Teaneck, NJ 07666
(201) 692-7032

285 Madison Avenue
Mailstop M-MS0-01
Madison, NJ 07940
(973) 443-8661

Copyright © 2005, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved.
This release authored with FDU Pagetoaster.