Teachers College, Columbia University

The Effects of English as a Second Language Courses on Language Minority Community College Students

English as a second language (ESL) courses seek to address a primary barrier to college success for language minority students: second language issues that can inhibit their success in college-level coursework. But, there is a limited understanding of the effects of ESL on college student outcomes.

Using a rich, longitudinal data set that includes 10 years of transcript data on community college students at an urban college system, this study uses a difference-in-differences approach to identify the impact of ESL compared with developmental writing. Results suggest that the longer sequence length in ESL compared with developmental writing decelerates language minority students’ progression through college, but findings vary for first-generation, second-generation, and generation 1.5 students, highlighting the heterogeneous effects of ESL.

This article appears in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol. 37, no. 2.