Report Claims Only 7% of Latina/os Over 25 Hold a Bachelor's Degree

csusf-chicana-grad-300x199.jpgAre higher tuition costs rising and risky financial assistance rolling back Latina/o gains in higher education?

via OC Register


Just 7 percent of Latinos ages 25 and older hold college degrees in California, compared with 30 percent of all Californians in that age bracket, according to a newly released report highlighting the ethnic disparities in higher education.

The report from the Los Angeles-based Campaign for College Opportunity advocacy group also noted that the transfer rate among Latino students from community colleges to four-year colleges is about half that of white students (14 percent vs. 29 percent). The report, titled "Latino Students and Higher Education: California Profile," drew from a variety of sources of data, mostly from 2009, the latest available.

"Latino families have very high aspirations, and yet there's this huge gap between the aspirations and the reality," said Michele Siqueiros, executive director for the Campaign for College Opportunity. "We think one of the big challenges is awareness, information and knowledge. ... Those things are absolutely not happening at the level we're seeing."

Officials with the Campaign for College Opportunity say that the number of Latino students who are going to college and graduating in California is growing in absolute terms, but not nearly fast enough to keep up with the state's growing Latino population. As a result, the proportion of Latinos in higher education is shrinking.

While some gains are being made at some schools, "a lot of schools don't see their main job or function as preparing kids for college," Siqueiros said.

"We're seeing some changes, but not to the scale we want to see them," she said. "They aren't happening at every single school in California."

The report, released last week, noted that only 16 percent of Latino high school graduates were taking the courses necessary to qualify for admission to the University of California and California State University systems, and only half of those qualifying enrolled in those systems.

O.C. education officials have said they've long been working to address the wide achievement gaps between Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts, but acknowledge immense challenges remain, including language barriers, a lack of understanding of the U.S. education system and a culture that tends to value work over education.

Drastic state funding cuts for public education also have eliminated resources for those most academically vulnerable, leaving grassroots groups and privately funded initiatives to fill the gaps, said Lucy Dunn, president of the Orange County Business Council, which runs the Latino Educational Attainment Initiative resource network.

"The lack of uniform resources is, I think, a result of state budget cuts," Dunn said. "The state has hacked away at the job of doing education. Because of that, the private sector tries to backfill the things that the public sector can't do."

The council's Latino Educational Attainment Initiative provides resources and networking opportunities to help Latino parents in Orange County understand how to get their children to college. The initiative expanded its reach into 18 schools last year alone, which speaks to the growing need for such programs countywide, Dunn said.

Other Latino educational outreach programs include the Fullerton Collaborative, a project of the Fullerton School District that helps Latino parents understand how to navigate even the most basic aspects of the U.S. school system.

In Santa Ana, the Padres Promotores de la Educación group, or Parent Promoters of Education, canvasses local neighborhoods on a routine basis, distributing fliers about key school events and meeting one-on-one with families to provide school and college planning advice.

The Campaign for College Opportunity advocates even more aggressive intervention strategies to boost Latino college-going rates, including implementing statewide accountability systems for students who receive state financial aid, and requiring community colleges to provide mandatory diagnostic assessments and comprehensive educational plans to all students.

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