10 Colleges With the Highest Percentage of Students in ESL

Delece Smith-Barrow

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Colleges in the U. S. have offered English as a Second Language programs for years for students who aren't proficient enough to handle a U.S. curriculum, but lately, more undergrads are joining them.

"The number of students in ESL programs increased from 10,224 in 2003-04 to 29,603 in 2010-11 and soared by 24% as compared to 2009-10," states the World Education Services, a nonprofit organization that collects data on international education, in a 2012 report.

[Learn which schools draw the most international students.]

At Lawrence Technological University, 12 percent of 2012 graduates participated in ESL. The Michigan school had the highest percentage of ESL students in its 2012 graduating class, according to data submitted to U.S. News by 102 ranked schools. Hundreds of schools offer ESL courses or programs, the data show.

Of the 10 schools with the highest percentage of 2012 graduates participating in ESL, two New Jersey institutions are labeled Rank Not Published: New Jersey City University, which had 8 percent, and Centenary College, which had 5 percent. Rank Not Published institutions are ranked in the bottom one-fourth of their ranking category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

Several universities that once had a relatively high percentage of graduating students who participated in ESL have since seen a decrease. La Roche College in Pennsylvania had 9 percent of its graduating students participate in ESL in 2010, but only 2 percent in 2012. Wisconsin's Marquette University had 6 percent in 2010 and 4 percent in 2012.

[Master the TOEFL with these four tips.]

Few schools have held a steady percentage, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of them. In 2010 and 2012, 6 percent of its graduates participated in ESL.

Below is a list of the 10 universities with the highest ESL participation rates. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

School name (state) Percent of 2012 graduates who participated in ESL U.S. News rank and category
Lawrence Technological University (MI) 12 53, Regional Universities (Midwest)
John Brown University (AR) 8 2, Regional Colleges (South)
New Jersey City University 8 RNP, Regional Universities (North)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 6 7, National Universities
Smith College (MA) 6 20, National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of Tulsa (OK) 6 86, National Universities
Centenary College (NJ) 5 RNP, Regional Universities (North)
New Jersey Institute of Technology 5 150, National Universities
Roosevelt University (IL) 5 77, Regional Universities (Midwest)
Syracuse University (NY) 5 62, National Universities

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find ESL data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2013 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The ESL data above are correct as of Dec. 24, 2013.