Focus Needed on Increasing Latinos in Higher Ed

By Latinovations

Deborah Santiago, Co-Founder and Vice President for Policy Research at Excelencia in Education, is saying that there needs to be a greater focus to get more Latinos involved with higher education by emphasizing more need-based financial aid, increasing funds for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and increasing the capacity for Latino students.

As reported by the Pew Hispanic Center in August, Latinos currently make up 16.5% of the college/higher education population, the second largest group after non-Latino whites. Theproblem, however, is retention, and financial pressure to support their family is listed as one of the biggest reasons Latino students did not complete college. The survey also found that about 75% of the Latinos surveyed felt forced to end their education before or after high school because they had to work.

To assist Latino students in retention, Excelencia in Education recommends increasing work-study programs, more guaranteed need-based programs, early college high school and dual enrollment programs, and the use of installment plans and emergency loans.

Completion is an issue where Latinos have experienced a positive upward trend in recent years, but where they are still lagging behind the general population: According to another Excelencia in Education study, Latinos had a 14% lower college graduation rate than whites nationally, with 21% of Latinos having earned an associate degree or higher (in 2011), compared to 57% of Asians, 44% of whites, and 30% of Blacks. Between 2001 and 2011, however, the number of Latinos with at least a bachelor’s degree nearly doubled from 2.1 million to 3.8 million, rising from 11% to 14% overall attainment.

A Pew Hispanic survey reported that while 76.3% of all Latinos ages 18 to 24 had a high school degree or General Educational Development (GED) degree in 2011, only 45.6% were enrolled in two-year or four-year colleges. While those numbers are up from previous years, institutions and education experts are looking at other ways to increase capacity. Schools with limited capacity are using work-study programs to increase the available seats, and some states with dwindling populations are recruiting Latino students to increase their numbers.

Regarding HSIs, the number of institutions defined as such has increased by 130% to 311 as of 2011, reports Santiago. These institutions received $117 million of federal funding intended to improve academic quality and capacity building to these institutions, and to improve faculty development and for student support services.

“These institutions could have used the funds for construction, or improving facilities, but instead they’re keeping their eye on the prize, and made a choice to improve student success,” says Santiago. “That is significant, and it supports why we should be investing in these institutions.”

This article was first published in Latinovations.

[Photo by hhsara]

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