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Dramatic increase in enrollment for non-credit ESL courses

Updated: Apr 17

Students from Russia, Ukraine and Armenia flock to Valley College’s ESL program.

By Katherine OBrien Field, Staff Writer and Copy Editor


Oksana Ulianchenko succeeds in ESL program. Photo taken March 20. (Astrid Cortez | Valley Star)



According to an internal President’s email, non-credit ESL, ESL-Civics and Computer Literacy enrollment has increased by 77 percent since 2022, due to an influx of students from Armenia, Ukraine, and Russia. 


The three non-credit ESL (English as a Second Language) courses include English, English-Civics, and Computer Literacy. In addition to learning English, students can study American history and civics, to prepare for the citizenship exam. The entire program is open entry and open exit, so that students may join or leave at any time, as long as there is a seat. All the classes are free and students can get a Certificate of Completion at the end of the course. 


“Certificates look good on a resume, it's not a degree and not transferable because it’s uncredited, but certificates give satisfaction and confidence - which matter,” said Department Chair of Continuing Education Administration and Career Advancement, Lilit Davoyan. “Non-credit classes are a point of entry for students who are trying to adapt to the U.S. and its educational system. Here they can learn the language without the pressure of credit and units.”


There is a brief, ESL-friendly online application. Davoyan said that the college’s goal for the non-credit ESL student is to transfer to the school’s regular curriculum so that they can get the units needed to get a degree. However, students are not required to move to regular enrollment and many students already have jobs. 


Lynne Brower founded the non-credit ESL program in 2008 under the title of Continuing Education Director until 2015, when the program was approved to be a Department. Thereafter, Brower became Chair of the Counseling Department. 


“I began the non-credit ESL program in 2008, with one single student. When I retired in 2017, we had 200 students,” Brower said. “When we first began, most of our students were from Mexico, South America, and Armenia. By 2017, we had more Russian and Armenian students. Since our attendance kept increasing, we received additional instructors and staff. The increase in enrollment was slow and steady over time.” 


LACCD Vice Chancellor of Institutional Effectiveness Maury Pearl produced the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 Non-Credit Adult Education Program data, showing that the year over year increase in enrollment went from 2,987 to 5,842, a 98.88 percent increase in one year. That means from 2017, when Brower remembers there being about 200 students, the Department has increased its enrollment over 29 times in five years. 


“Most of the new students are of Ukrainian, Russian, and Armenian origin, based upon my physical observation,” said Davoyan. One such student is Oksana Ulianchenko. 


“The online classes are great for me,” said Oksana, whose family, after 12 years, won the Ukraine Green Card Lottery and came to the U.S. in 2019. “They are so well organized, which makes studying very comfortable. Modern technologies allow this, and these technologies are very easy to use. Despite the densely filled classes (30-40 people), one gets the feeling of an individual lesson with a teacher.”

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