Photo: La Salle University Photography
BUSCA graduates are equipped to continue their education. Photo: La Salle University Photography

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La Salle’s BUSCA program focuses on Latino enhancing. Joanne Woods is the program director.


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The Bilingual Undergraduate Studies for Collegiate Advancement (BUSCA) allows Latinx students to earn a four-semester associate of arts degree from La Salle University with a concentration in English. 

Fall 2023 marks BUSCA's 30th anniversary—in an interview with AL DÍA, Joanne Woods, BUSCA program director, shares the importance of being Latino enhancing and supporting Latinx students in developing their foundational knowledge, improving their academic and language skills in a space that is nurturing and demanding. 

Photo: La Salle University Photography
BUSCA is designed to be free for students who qualify for the maximum federal and state aid. Photo: La Salle University Photography

Latino enhancing 

Created in 1993, BUSCA has grown from a six-student cohort taught in Spanish to then, for many years, it was 80% in Spanish and 20% in English— taking approximately six years to develop the academic language, therefore, switching to a program that is primarily now taught in English. 

BUSCA usually has approximately 60 new students starting each fall—to try and keep class size between 15-20, which is what is recommended by the Modern Language Association, allowing students to have “robust conversations while also allowing students time to get individual attention from the instructors,” explained Woods. 

The associate degree program has 60 credits or 20 classes, of which 17 of those are in English. However, since BUSCA is a bilingual program, students take three courses in Spanish for two reasons: to Latino enhance and prepare students to work in the Latino community if that is what they aspire to do. 

“We want to be Latino enhancing to make sure that the students know that their culture, including their language, is valued,” Woods assures. “We want to make sure that they have the academic Spanish.” 

The program wants Latinx students to be able to market themselves and go into the Latino community fully bilingual with the academic language in their native tongue, Spanish. 

The curriculum offers two “Spanish for Heritage Speakers” and “Spanish and Hispanic Cinema” courses as part of the sheltered immersion protocol—develop the vocabulary needed for assignments and ensure students have the required background knowledge to complete tasks outside of class. BUSCA instructors assist students in developing the four domains of the English language: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  

Before the pandemic, La Salle was a test-flexible institution, with only limited programmatic exceptions until October 2020, when it “expanded its admission protocol to become fully test-optional for all undergraduate programs,” as reported by La Salle News. 

BUSCA does not require SAT testing as part of its admissions protocol but a free English language assessment to students—the program looks for intermediate English language users—a person who knows present, past, and future tenses. Although perfect usage is not necessary for the program, some background understanding of those tenses is because the goal is to “get them out of the intermediate zone and into the advanced zone while they are in BUSCA,” Woods reiterated. 

Participants of the program are also considered a student at La Salle University and have access to all buildings and tutoring services. 

Latino producing

BUSCA is concerned about Latinx enhancing and Latinx producing; reasons why Woods recognizes that “most of our people, most of our applicants, our students are going to be working.” The program is at night, and although many universities close their offices at 4:30 pm, members of BUSCA stay until 6:00 pm or 6:15 pm to see if students need assistance. 

“We recognize that even the people in BUSCA, who may not have their own children, may have responsibilities for their siblings, or maybe they are living with an aunt or uncle and helping take care of their cousins,” Woods said. “Whatever the situation is, the admissions counselors work very closely with the person.” 

The program is committed to Latinx students' success. It continues to help graduates who may require guidance. However, La Salle provides services to assist this population of students. 

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BUSCA students who pursue a Bachelor’s degree have the English skills needed to be successful. Worth noting is that BUSCA offers free tuition to students that qualify for full-tuition aid or Pell Grant. Additionally, the program grants at least two scholarships to people excluded from qualifying for federal aid. 

“BUSCA graduates are equipped to continue their education and to become lifelong learners and empowered bilingual leaders in our communities and society,” the website says.

BUSCA has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to offer a free pre-BUSCA program to applicants who need additional support to demonstrate the level of English necessary to enter BUSCA.

I would recommend BUSCA to new students because they will not only help you get through your classes but also, they would listen to all your concerns and walk you through the rough path, said Lina Barrios, BUSCA, and La Salle graduate. 



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