Program offers refugees and new Americans opportunity to earn associate’s degree, touting high graduation rate and little to no debt.
Two years ago, seeing a need in the community of refugees and new Americans on the Westside of Buffalo, Houghton College started a satellite location named Houghton College Buffalo in the back rooms of the First Presbyterian Church in the heart of Buffalo’s West Side.
Since its start, the program has seen great success and is trending to see upwards of a 500 percent growth in just its third year.
This new program is hyper-focused on graduating “at-risk” students with an associate’s degree in two years and without debt. On Saturday, May 14, that inaugural class will attend commencement at Houghton’s main campus in Houghton, N.Y., and, in so doing, step out into the world with an excellence that is unprecedented among most other two-year associate programs in the U.S.
The national average for community college graduates who earn associate degrees hovers around 4 percent. Thirteen of the original 16 students who started the Houghton Buffalo program in 2014 have brought it to completion, making a two-year graduation rate of over 80 percent.
The intent of the West Side class location was to provide affordable higher education to these economically vulnerable and culturally marginalized groups without forcing them to leave their new communities.
Many of the students are from refugee or immigrant families and speak English as a second language. Understanding that language barriers can often cause difficulty in an education environment, the college offers ESL support, study resources and on-site tutoring.
As a result of their education, many from this year’s class will go on to complete four-year degrees or will directly enter the workforce at jobs for which they might previously have been unqualified.
“These are student-centered results that matter,” said Cameron Airhart, dean of Houghton College Buffalo. “Timely graduation without encumbering debt coupled with further education or meaningful employment.”
With current enrollment projections, the program is preparing to have over 60 students at the start of this coming September and is currently in the process of expanding the academic space to an additional floor. This expansion will have the potential to accommodate upwards of 200 enrolled students.
The college’s low-cost financial model aims at providing its education debt-free by utilizing federal, state and Houghton College grants. It also lowers and, in some cases, fully eliminates the out-of-pocket cost even further by providing books, a computer and bus passes for everyone in the program.
The cohort structure of curriculum delivery also works to keep costs down and, more importantly, fosters the sense of community, safety, and camaraderie that is a crucial ingredient for success with what would often be termed, “at-risk” students.
Students who graduate from the program have a fully accredited associate’s degree which fast-tracks them for acceptance to Houghton College’s main campus in Houghton, NY or is transferrable to any four year institution in the US just as any other associated degree earned at a more traditional community college.
If you would like more information on Houghton College Buffalo, you can visit www.houghton.edu/buffalo or call 716-222-9615.