ESL Pathway Programs

Expanded Enrollment Opportunities for International Students with Lower English Levels


Many prospective international students fail to meet minimum English language level requirements for entry into institutions of higher education. At some institutions, ESL pathway programs provide promising international students with lower English scores an opportunity to raise their English level and enter academic programs they otherwise would be ineligible for.

This report evaluates the market for ESL pathway programs and profiles five leading ESL pathway programs.

Key observations from our research

1. Multiple models exist for ESL pathway programs at profiled institutions.

2. A majority of prospective international students can benefit from ESL pathway programs, but many may lack academic or financial qualifications.

3. Integrating academic courses into ESL pathway program curricula speeds degree completion but limits English improvements.

4. Roughly 75 to 80 percent of participating students complete profiled ESL pathway programs and continue undergraduate studies.

5. First-year experience ESL pathway programs operate similarly to academic colleges, while programs more closely focused on English instruction operate within English language institutes.

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