This content was published: June 15, 2020. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
U.S. Dept. of Ed grants PCC $2.4 million for key migrant support program
Photos and Story by James Hill
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Portland Community College’s High School Equivalency Program (HEP), a 5-year, $2.4 million grant, to ensure that migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the region attain their GED® and transition to higher education.
HEP, the only program of its kind in the region, looks to improve the educational attainment and employment opportunities of eligible migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their family members. While eligible students inquire about attaining the GED®, HEP requires them to commit to attaining it, as well as continue on to earn a college degree or training certificate, work toward an employment upgrade, or enter military service.
“It is this long-term commitment that impacts the entire family life, since students not only attain the GED® but learn about other possibilities and resources, and how to access them,” said Beto Espindola, HEP manager. “For example, many of our graduates will continue into our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Program and will be able to talk with their children about financial aid, college admissions, and more.”
During the past six years, PCC has earned nearly $40 million in grant funding to bolster student support services like HEP, and more than $6.5 million since the start of 2019.
Through this new grant, HEP will serve 58 students annually and provide a comprehensive array of services and activities. These include academic and career advising, free high school equivalency instruction and tutoring, free GED® exams, access to a lending library, supplies, cafeteria meals, transportation stipends and childcare subsidies.
In addition, participants will receive a week-long, hands-on computer literacy course, weekly class access to computer labs, career and academic workshops, follow-up services, and an $800 college tuition waiver for GED® attainers. As part of this, HEP will implement evidence-based, self-regulated learning strategies to improve student progress and achievement outcomes.
Outcome goals are:
- 69 percent of participants receive their GED® annually.
- 80 percent of GED® recipients transition to postsecondary education or training programs, upgraded employment, or the military each year.
PCC is the largest institution of higher education in Oregon and serves approximately 7,854 Latinx students. PCC’s High School Equivalency Program is based at the Rock Creek Campus (17705 N.W. Springville Road) and has an office at Pacific University’s Hillsboro Campus. The program focuses on serving all of Washington County, which has the largest migrant and seasonal farmworker population in the region — 26 percent of the state’s total migrant population. Without HEP, Espindola said, there would be no access to high school equivalency completion for this population.
“HEP, given its program design, serves adult students in Spanish who, on average, have been out of school for 10 or more years and possess limited formal education,” Espindola explained. “It addresses their specific needs such as evening classes, tutoring, computer training, support services, and other educational assistance. This experience is often the catalyst to filling the educational void and breaking the poverty cycle, particularly for the extended family.”
The rights and welfare of migrant and seasonal farmworkers are important to Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who represents the First Congressional District of Oregon, which encompasses Washington County. She is a leader on the Education and Labor Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.“Education is one of the best investments we can make, and without this program farmworkers in our region would not have access to GED education and support,” said Bonamici. “As the pandemic exposes long-standing racial inequities, we must make sure that all members of our community can access education and build a better future for their families. I am pleased to support PCC’s High School Equivalency Program for migrant and seasonal farm workers, and I will continue my work in Congress to champion educational equity.”