By Corina Borsuk, public relations technician, Communications/Community Relations, San Bernardino City Unified School District and Leticia Villa, principal, Inland Career Education Center, SBCUSD
Nationally, about 2.8 million adults enrolled in for-profit colleges and technical schools during the 2014–2015 academic year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. For some, the benefits outweigh the large sums of money they pay for just the opportunity to earn a degree or certificate. But for many of the low-income adults who flock to these for-profit schools, the costs continue to mount until they are even deeper in debt. Sadly, most never learn they have other options in the form of adult education.
Several years ago, the San Bernardino Adult School embarked on a strategic planning process to raise awareness of adult education and its lifechanging opportunities. As part of that, we changed our name to the Inland Career Education Center (ICEC).
Regardless of the name we’ve used, ICEC has been providing opportunities for career advancement and a better life for 100 years.
We offer free and low-cost courses that lead to a high school diploma or GED. According to a report by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a single high school dropout costs a community more than $200,000 in lost tax revenue and higher government spending. Every time ICEC helps a high school dropout earn a diploma or GED, it frees up local government resources for other projects, such as parks and arts programs.
For the Fall 2019 session, ICEC also offered business and computer education courses; an apprentice barber program; medical education programs, including Certified Nurse Assistant and Licensed Vocational Nurse certifications; and other programs.
While it may seem redundant to offer these types of career programs when other institutions provide similar offerings, ICEC actually fills a gap left by four-year and for-profit colleges. Many public, private, and for-profit colleges have accelerated course schedules for certificate and non-traditional educational programs. For adults who are academically prepared, it can be a great way to achieve their goals quickly. For adults who are not prepared, starting out with diploma or GED courses can be the right choice both academically and financially. Unprepared students are more likely to fail or dropout of college and technical programs unless they receive strong support from the college. Adult education programs can provide that support for students, both during and prior to entering a degree or certificate program. Many adult education programs allow students to earn a diploma or GED at their own pace. Students are screened prior to entering technical training programs to make sure they are properly prepared to succeed. ICEC never uses the screening process to turn away students, only to direct them to a program where they can be successful and still improve their employment prospects.
Additionally, ICEC recognizes that the life circumstances of adult students are often different from the average college-age student. With the need to care for children, pay the rent, and be responsible for lives beyond their own, it’s important for adult students to have support when returning to school. That is why ICEC provides the Parent Education Childcare program. This specialized preschool program for children 2-1/2 to 5 years old allows adult students to attend class three to four days a week while their child receives age-appropriate supervision and education. Parents must attend class with their child one day a week to improve their parenting skills. Parent Education Childcare is a major benefit to the community as it prepares adult students to be successful employees and parents and prepares younger students to be successful in school. Strong, financially stable families will likely need fewer social and financial interventions.
Adult education also offers specialized courses that allow a very underserved population to live independently. The Life Skills and Functional Academics program for developmentally delayed adults provides instruction in basic math, literacy, and computer literacy, as well as helps students improve their physical fitness, personal health, and socialization skills. Without programs like these, many developmentally delayed adults would be dependent on family or government for many, if not all, of their daily needs. The majority of for-profit institutions are not equipped to serve this adult student population, but we can and do provide hope for a more fulfilling life for these adult students and their families.
The most important aspect of ICEC is that we aren’t about making a profit at any cost. We’re about making sure our students profit at little cost to themselves.