In partnership with Lumina Foundation and Achieving the Dream, Equal Measure explored strategies that community colleges are using to support adult learners. Our vignette about the Prioritizing Adult Community College Enrollment (PACCE) initiative highlights Colorado Mountain College’s promising progress for English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.

The PACCE initiative was designed to scale strategies for increasing the enrollment and re-enrollment of adult learners—particularly Black and Latino students—in high-quality credit and non-credit programs. As Lumina Foundation’s learning and evaluation partner, Equal Measure explored how 20 community colleges in eight statesare implementing and adapting strategiesfor adult learners. 

Promising Progress from Colorado 

In 2023, Equal Measure visited Colorado Mountain College (CMC) to learn about their context, approach, and early implementation of promising strategies for adult learners. Some of the actionable insights from our engagement include: 

  • ESL Learners at Colorado Mountain. CMC knows and is continuously learning more about the community it serves. They gather data to implement strategies and make decisions aligned with adult learners’ wants and needs. 
  • Career Exploration ESL Course. Armed with data, CMC designed its Career Exploration course to create a bridge for adult ESL learners, helping them transition from non-credit to for-credit pathways. 
  • Shared Language and Experience. Adult ESL learners benefit from CMC faculty and staff who share similar backgrounds, Spanish and dual language speaking and comprehension skills, and immigrant and Latino identities. 
  • Mindset, Culture, and Practice Change. CMC ESL staff use an asset-based ESL adult learner lens that rejects conflating English language skills with intelligence and intentionally positions bilingual staff to support ESL learners. 

Strong data, de-siloing, mindset shifts, and genuinely centering learners in decision making are crucial markers of success when developing new pathways and support. These insights offer lessons for community colleges and funders seeking to support ESL adult learners.