The Experience of Latino Adult Learners in the State of Washington

Veronica Willeto
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The focus of this research is on Latino adult education at community and technical colleges in Washington. What are the challenges faced by adult learners? What type of support do community colleges offer to students? What type of support is provided by the state? Are adult education programs adequately meeting the needs of Latino/a adults?

Methods: Reports and data provided by the Washington State Community and Technical Colleges, the Office of Adult Literacy, and the National Literacy Information and Communication System online databases, as well as the Pew Hispanic Center and various Hispanic and education journals, were analyzed. Additionally, a case study was conducted on the Walla Walla Community College. Oral and written interviews with Latino/a adult learners and advisors were obtained. The focus of the research was on three adult education programs commonly provided by Washington’s community and technical colleges: Adult Basic Skills (ABE), English as a Second Language (ESL), and General Education Degree (GED). The three areas of concern were the (1) the economic disadvantage of Latinos, (2) the institution’s learning environment, and (3) the quality of the adult education programs.

Findings: Latinos/as in adult education are still lacking adequate school and governmental support necessary for access to community colleges and success in their adult education programs. Changes in customary practices and institutional policies need to be made to remedy the following issues:

  • The insufficient economic assistance provided by the state and institution
  • The inadequate study of Latino/a adult learner progress
  • The marginalization of Latino culture within the community college institution


1. Provide more state funding for adult education programs

2. Provide student grants and scholarships that are more accessible

3. Provide a tracking system that is specific to Latino adult learners and the institution’s adult education programs to measure the access and success

4. Provide more flexibility in the structure of adult education programs to accommodate circumstances such as child care, transportation, legal status, and cultural values and assets.

5. Provide more education to staff, administrators, faculty, and students on cultural sensitivity

Community Partners: Cynthia Suede, Washington State University representative, and Dr. Victor Chacon, director of Multicultural Services, at Walla Walla Community College.


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