Currently, chances for English learners (ELs), emergent bilinguals who are in the process of developing grade-level academic English proficiency, to receive a college education are limited in the United States. Almost half of ELs do not attend any postsecondary education (PSE) after high school (Kanno & Cromley, 2013, 2015). Even among those who attend college, ELs are overrepresented in community colleges while being underrepresented in four-year institutions. On the face of it, this may all seem like an unfortunate but natural consequence of ELs limited English proficiency. However, scholars have argued that there are structural barriers that inhibit ELs PSE access, such as limited academic preparation in middle and high school due to their institutional status as ELs (Callahan, 2005; Callahan & Shifrer, 2016; Callahan, Wilkinson, & Muller, 2010; Kanno & Kangas, 2014; Umansky, 2016). Moreover, recent statistical analyses suggest that factors that have been widely accepted as influential in the general student population s college access the majority of whom are English-as-a-first-language (English L1) speakers may not
always be as significant for ELs (Kanno & Cromley, 2015; Nuñez & Sparks, 2012). In other words, we know that ELs
do not have the same levels of four-year-college access as English L1 speakers, but we do not know exactly why.
Longitudinal investigations of ELs transition to college are particularly scarce.