Nestled in the heart of Rego Park, Queens is a thriving academic institution known as the Metropolitan Learning Institute (MLI). Standing as a testament to the transformative power of education and higher learning, MLI was founded more than two decades ago as a private, non-profit institution that has since evolved into a vital resource for those seeking to improve their lives through specialized training.
From its humble beginnings on Yellowstone Boulevard in the Parker Towers apartment complex, MLI’s journey of expansion and adaptation reflects not only its commitment to excellence but also the changing needs of its diverse student body.
“We opened in 1996 as an organization, and started teaching in 1999,” School Director James Bruce told Vision Times. “The first class had only eight students and one teacher. They all studied mainframe computing because of the Y2K fears, and they were all Russian,” he added.
A beacon for higher learning
The school’s evolution from its initial focus on computing in the late ’90s to its current diverse offerings is nothing short of remarkable. MLI now boasts programs in accounting, bookkeeping, medical office administration, and medical clinical skills. But it’s not just about vocational skills; the institute also offers English as a Second Language (ESL) classes by integrating them with some of their career programs.
Bruce emphasizes the importance of their ESL combined courses, highlighting the practicality: “A lot of the immigrant people who come here desire to run a business — they don’t have a lot of experience with bookkeeping and accounting in America. So they study the software here, learn how to manage company taxes, and even personal income taxes.” The presence of such courses showcases MLI’s adaptability and commitment to addressing the specific needs of its community.
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Standing at the forefront of post-secondary education, MLI provides specialized training in professions that will always be in demand, such as bookkeeping and accounting. “In America, about 1.5 percent of the population works as bookkeepers, a whopping 1.5 to 2 million people,” says Bruce. The school’s main goal is to uplift individuals from the service job sector, allowing them a more secure, respected, and financially rewarding profession.
Since every company needs a team to manage finances, pay bills, and oversee money inflow and outflow, students at MLI are able to gain a firsthand understanding of systems like the American health insurance, knowledge about tax laws, payroll protection, and other programs, says Bruce.
Apart from its specialized tracks, MLI’s reputation for providing state-of-the-art resources is commendable. “Contemporary computer technologies used in industry are incorporated in all coursework,” said Bruce. This approach ensures students aren’t just gaining knowledge, but are also adept at using tools pivotal in today’s global business world and ever-changing landscapes in fields like healthcare and marketing.
A hands-on approach
In a world where the quality of education is often gauged by the price tag attached, MLI breaks the mold.
As a non-profit institution, its primary focus remains clear: Quality education that prepares students for real-world challenges. The school’s mission resonates in Bruce’s words, “To see that each graduate is prepared with the personal attributes, drive, academic education; theoretical background, practical hands-on experience, and knowledge of the field… and to successfully compete for employment and provide services in today’s business and healthcare environment.”
But perhaps the most notable achievement of the MLI model is its undying commitment to its students. Beyond just academics, the institute extends long-term academic support, job search assistance, and employment counseling. The aim? To ensure every student is not just job-ready, but life-ready, and prepared for all the hurdles that come with job hunting and interviewing.
When asked about the future, Bruce expresses optimism, especially concerning the potential for a new practical nursing program in New York. Having already had experience running such a program in New Jersey, Bruce eagerly awaits New York State’s response to their submission, emphasizing how many have inquired about such a program over the years.
Flexible class settings
While many might consider community colleges like CUNY as their primary option, the MLI offers unique advantages. “We’re faster than an associate degree, delivering a full education in just 15 months,” says Bruce, adding, “Students at his institution spend more time in the classroom, receiving 25 hours of instruction a week, which can be online or in-person.”
While Bruce acknowledges the growing preference for online education, he also believes in the advantages that come with in-person classes. “Many people find it comfortable, and for a time, government incentives like the Cares Act supported this shift.” However, for courses like English, “studying in a room, face-to-face with a teacher, offers unparalleled advantages,” he says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many institutions faced closures due to their inability to shift online, the MLI made a swift transition in just 5-6 weeks. Bruce recalls this rapid change as “some kind of miracle.” Now, the MLI offers both in-person and online classes catering to the diverse needs of their students.
In an era where the right education can mean the difference between mere survival and having a fulfilling career, institutions like the MLI are essential. They aren’t just schools; they’re gateways to better futures and havens of opportunity in a competitive corporate world.
As Bruce succinctly sums up, “We are the immigrants. We’ve always been here in this neighborhood.” And for many, the community provided by MLI and its beacon of learning represent the first step towards a brighter, more prosperous future.
For more information regarding the Metropolitan Learning Institute, including available courses, pricing, and financial aid, please visit the official website here.