ESL Resources
State Capacity Building

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Do you have a question?

The Waiting Game

The following information was compiled for a Senate hearing in March 1996. It is a collection of responses to a request that was posted on several listservs including NIFL-ESL (See the back page). Although it is not a comprehensive list, note that both volunteer programs and those operated by school districts and community colleges report waiting lists for ESL classes, especially in urban areas.

In San Jose, more than 4,000 were reported on waiting lists. (13,586 adults are enrolled in ESL classes.) In the San Diego Community College district, 200 are on one waiting list.

Number reported on waiting lists statewide: 2,000 to 3,000. Larger programs have 300-500 people on waiting lists at any one time.

The Palm Beach Literacy Coalition reports 200 students are on a one-month waiting list for ESL classes.


Number reported on waiting lists statewide: 1846 (from the combined waiting lists of 68 volunteer literacy programs).

In 1995, a Massachusetts Department of Education survey verified 15,000 people on waiting lists statewide. People in major metropolitan areas wait for up to three years for a placement, those in other areas wait an average of nine months.In Boston, 1,000 are on the waiting list for Quincy School; the average wait is two years. The East Boston Harborside Program has a waiting list with more then 350 names; the average wait is three to six months. A family literacy program in Chelsea, MA designed to serve 100 families has 160 families on its waiting list.In Brockton. MA, more than 400 are on the waiting list for night classes; the average wait is two to three years.

New Jersey
The Literacy Volunteers of America/NJ affiliate reports 829 people on waiting lists for ESL instruction, 250 of these in Middlesex County. In Union City, 300 adults are enrolled in ESL classes, 272 are on the waiting list. The waiting period is six months to one year. The Plainfield Adult Learning Center in Plainfield has 187 ESL students on its waiting list. In West New York, 140 are on a waiting list. The average wait is four to eight weeks. New Brunswick had 700 ESL students on the waiting list before maintaining the list became too unwieldy.

New York
At the Queens Library, two thirds of the 1,100 people on waiting lists do not get space in classes during a given year. In Ithaca, Literacy Volunteers of Tompkins County has 30 people on a waiting list, half of whom have been waiting more than six months.

An ESL program in Allentown graduates approximately 600 students per year. At any one time, 300-500 people are on waiting lists. The wait is three to twelve months.Texas
In Corpus Christi, 150 aspiring ESL students are turned away each month and wait nine months to a year for space in a program that can serve 80 students. The Dallas Adult Literacy Council reports 6,000 people on a one-year waiting list for ESL.

In Fairfax County, an average of 500 people are waiting for space in ESL classes. The wait can be a year.

The King County Literacy Coalition in Seattle reports 3,000 students on waiting lists for ESL classes. The wait is from six months to a year. At Lake Washington Technical College the wait for class space is up to six months.

Excerpted from NCLEnotes, Vol. 6, no. 1