In 1994, among Hispanics who completed high school, about half of men and women immediately enrolled in college. Nearly two decades later, college enrollments for both groups improved, but women outpaced men by 13 percentage points.
Angela Barba was the first in her immediate family to graduate from high school. And when the time came for her son Robert to follow in her footsteps, she says, she found herself overwhelmed.
"I had no idea how I was going to get him into college," she says.
Angela, who had completed a two-year degree herself, says she wanted her son to be the first in the family to complete a four-year program. But she couldn't really offer any advice or guidance as to what schools to attend or how to apply for scholarships.
"I wish I could say that I helped Robert along with this information," Angela says. "But I had no idea how to even go get it."
And Robert understood that.
"I just knew that they didn't have any experience," he says. "I knew it was up to me to figure these things out."
Hispanic students are significantly more likely than African-Americans or whites to be the first in their families to graduate from college.
Robert Barba eventually found a scholarship and enrolled in the University of Colorado. But for nearly half of all Latino students, the outlook is quite different.
According to a report by the Pew Research Center, only 56 percent of young Hispanic students go to four-year schools — while, for non-Hispanic whites, the same figure is 72 percent. For blacks and for Asian-Americans, those numbers stand at 66 and 79 percent, respectively.
"Fact of the matter is, students who go to community college are much less likely to catch the prize," says Richard Fry, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. "They will be less likely to complete, on average, if they start at a two-year college rather than a four-year school."
In 2012, after tracking a group of high school sophomores for a decade, the U.S. Department of Education found that those who had enrolled in four-year universities were more than twice as likely to have graduated with a bachelor's degree, compared with those who enrolled in two-year schools.
And according to Fry's research, while 40 percent of whites will have attained a bachelor's degree by their late 20s, the same is true for only 16 percent of Hispanics.
Daniel Umana, a student at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Md., says there are sharp differences between his school and a four-year institution such as the University of Maryland. He says the environment there is different, the people are easier to relate to, and if he went there, he'd be able to visualize his goals more clearly.
"I'd definitely be more engaged simply because I'd be at a four-year school and I'd be working toward a bachelor's, not just an associate's," says Umana.
But just what makes four-year programs so much more effective remains up for debate. And why Hispanic students so often diverge from this path is an even more complicated question.
Last year, a report by the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California tracked students from the state's top high schools and found that, even within this group, Hispanics were a lot more likely than others to enroll in community colleges.
One of the major reasons may be cost. Average tuition at four-year schools is more than twice as high as it is at community colleges.
And research shows that Latinos are more averse to incurring debt and, on average, receive lower financial aid awards. This puts extra pressure on them to shift their focus from education to working.
But these disparities could stem from a lack of information about how to tap certain resources, such as grants or scholarship funds.
Angela Barba says she and her son — who's now a journalist and college graduate — have helped others in their family by walking them through applications for admissions and financial aid. Robert was even able to put one of his cousins in touch with an adviser who had helped him 14 years ago. That cousin is now a freshman at the University of Colorado.
"When you're a first-generation graduate, you walk away with a sense of responsibility," Robert says. "This is not just yours — now you have to pay it forward. You have to work for your family, too."
Today, many community colleges offer special programs that help Hispanic students. These range from intensive classes to help them improve their English, to centers that teach them how to apply for nonconventional forms of tuition assistance.
But the question remains on how to keep the majority of these students oriented — dead-set and focused on a prize that might take them four or five years to attain.
The key, Angela says, lies in providing the young with success stories that are close to home. She says many of their younger relatives see Robert as an example.
But Robert, laughing, says he encourages them to look beyond.
"I tell them, 'Don't be like me. Be like you,' " he says. " 'I want you to be your own person and exceed what I did.' "
For the story of America to be fully told, the history of Latinos in the United States and the landmarks of that history must be better documented and preserved, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said at the recent San Antonio Latino Legacy Summit.
“These stories have gone way too long untold,” Jarvis said during the Feb. 15 summit at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, where the National Park Service showcased its 400-page study on the need for inclusion of cultural landmarks designating Latino history.
“We want the American story to be complete,” he said.
Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered the study after National Park Service officials realized only 8 percent of U.S. historical landmarks noted contributions from people of color. A report titled “American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study” found that less than 1 percent of the nation's historic landmarks depict U.S. Latino contributions.
The Latino population has reached 53 million in the United States and makes up 17 percent of the nation's total population as of 2012, according to U.S. census figures.
“We hope to spark a dialogue in better identifying sites to be preserved,” Jarvis said to politicians, educators and activists in the audience. “We hope this report gives you a framework to continue your work.”
After Jarvis' keynote speech, professors who contributed to the study spoke about preserving Latino history.
“U.S history is Latino history, and Latino history is U.S. history,” said San Antonio-based historian Antonia Castañeda, one of the experts who guided the study.
Nicolás Kanellos, a University of Houston professor, gave nearly a dozen examples of how Latinos in the past two centuries were among the first in the country to use media — printing presses, Spanish-language radio and TV — chiefly in cities such as San Antonio.
The reason mainstream America may not be aware of Latino history or see its importance is that it hasn't been properly documented or justified by inclusion in textbooks, he said.
“We have never been on the sidelines, but we have been marginalized and essentially erased from history,” Kanellos said.
University of Texas at Austin journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez said the public can help with fleshing out those stories and providing evidence that could help the National Park Service better include Latinos in selecting U.S. landmarks.
“Please keep your diaries, letters, photographs from your families and lives, because that is what we will need to document their stories on this journey,” Rivas-Rodríguez said.
Speakers at the summit also reminded the audience that Latinos are only asking for equal treatment in how they are included in American history.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who is running for lieutenant governor and whose family has lived in Texas for six generations, told the audience that the more America's tapestry is examined, the more “you realize we are made up of many different threads.”
“When we know each other's stories, we lessen the divisiveness,” Van Putte said.
In 1983, Latinos made up less than 2 percent of faculty members and less than 5 percent of college students. Public funding for Latino research was paltry, and for research purposes many policymakers often arbitrarily lumped Latinos with other minorities.
Despite their evidently soaring numbers, Latinos were, in effect, invisible in the academy.
It was against this backdrop that directors of four Latino research centers—the University of Texas at Austin, UCLA, Stanford and Hunter College—met to come up with plans to boost Latino-focused research and increase the pool of Latino researchers and faculty.
One outcome of their meeting was the creation of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR).
Today, the consortium boasts 25 member universities and research centers. Its members have been credited with producing groundbreaking research and preparing graduate students for careers in academia while nurturing junior faculty members. Member schools include Arizona State University, Wayne State University, Michigan State University, DePaul University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The Smithsonian Institute’s Latino Center is also a member.
In its early days, IUPLR brought together scholars from multiple disciplines to conduct research on a variety of subjects of importance to Latinos, including labor, the economy and immigration. Over the years, the organization’s work has broadened; for much of the last decade, IUPLR has also taken a keen interest in art and culture.
Eduardo Diaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center and a board member of IUPLR, credits the consortium’s work with helping to midwife the museum’s Latino Museum Studies program.
“It is a professional development program for emerging scholars and museum professionals,” says Diaz. He says IUPLR provides strong financial, logistical and staff support for its biennial Latino Art Now! Conference, which brings together artists, curators and scholars, among others, to address issues in the contemporary Latino art world.
The consortium is entering its fourth decade with some big changes. For the first time in 14 years it has relocated from its headquarters at Notre Dame to the University of Illinois at Chicago, a high-profile urban campus that is 23.7 percent Latino, which is right on the cusp of meeting the criteria for becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution.
Dr. Maria de los Angeles Torres, director and professor of Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the consortium’s first female executive director, says the relocation is good for IUPLR and for UIC.
“This is a good moment for IUPLR to be at UIC. We epitomize the engaged university,” says Torres, who advised late Chicago mayor Harold Washington on Latino issues in the 1980s. “At UIC, my marching orders are to include UIC scholars in national [research] efforts. We are trying to link UIC to broader kinds of research teams that will be funded and bring research teams to the university.
“There is a sense that having research being conducted around Latino students will also be beneficial to the students,” adds Torres.
Early research-based focus
In its early days, research working groups that focused on an array of subjects were a hallmark of IUPLR’s work.
“The working group structure itself was a marvelous idea,” says Dr. Teresa Cordova, director of the Great Cities Institute at UIC and a professor of urban planning and policy at the university. “It brought together researchers from different parts of the country that could do research on different cities and do a comparative analysis. The fact that they were able to do this analysis about how the changing economy was affecting Latinos—from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles—and compare it to national figures gave us a lot of meaningful data.”
Cordova worked on the research working group in Chicago. She notes much of the research had policy implications.
“Part of the outcome of the research was how the decline of manufacturing was impacting Latinos at a time when the economy was de-industrializing and how they constituted part of [the] working poor,” she explains.
Cordova adds that much of the research helped scholars and observers acquire a strong understanding of the role and place of Latinos in the labor force as well as the impact of immigration policy on labor, particularly Latino labor.
“Even now as we talk about immigration policy, we can’t talk about it without looking at the role of Latinos in the labor force,” she says.
“Working groups are the mechanisms through which national research projects have been organized,” wrote Torres in her proposal to bring the consortium to UIC. “They have also served as important vehicles to develop more complex understandings of Latinos and, in some cases, have had a direct impact on policy and funding for other programs.”
‘Wish lists’ for change
Torres says that, as IUPLR enters a new phase, she would like to see it remain strong in the area of arts and culture. But Torres also plans to strengthen IUPLR in areas where she believes it is weak. She would like to see member centers and programs develop a strong voice on issues like borders and immigration. Among other things, Torres is proposing to raise the group’s profile in Washington, D.C.
She would also like to form a partners committee, which would mean working closely with prominent Latino groups like the National Council of La Raza and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.
Others have their own wish lists.
Dr. Deborah Santiago, co-founder and vice president of policy and research at Excelencia in Education, a D.C.-based organization that uses data and analysis to help formulate strategies for the success of Latino college students, says she’d like to see a strong focus on college completion and access to financial aid.
“I think a lot of our history has been talking about access, but we can’t forget about completion,” she says. “I think the issue of financial aid is also critical.”
Diaz says one of the big challenges facing IUPLR in the coming years is taking full measure of the broad diversity of the Latino community, which continues to grow and is attracting more newcomers from El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. He notes that Latinos are of every race—a fact that is sometimes lost on casual and even some astute observers.
Diaz says he would like to see the consortium do more outreach to some of the smaller Latino studies programs.
“There are these departments operating at colleges that I don’t think are on the radar screens of IUPLR,” he says. “One of the big needs from my viewpoint is for IUPLR to identify and reach out to these smaller Latino programs … that are developing and burgeoning. Associating with IUPLR can help them achieve what they want to achieve. I think they need to focus on that as a strategic initiative in the coming years.”
Diaz says he’d also like to see IUPLR pay some attention to the increasing dispersal of the Latino community, which has historically had its strongest presence in the Southwest, Florida, the West Coast and portions of the Northeast. Diaz says that, when he travels through the American heartland on speaking engagements, he’s amazed at the changing demographics, particularly the growth in Latino communities, even in rural or semi-rural areas as varied as Georgia and Nebraska.
“We need to pay attention to what’s going on in these other areas,” he says. “We need to take stock of what’s going on and be acutely aware [of it].”
Cordova says she’d like to see IUPLR continue to do a lot of research on urban policy, in keeping with her academic focus.
“I’ll be looking for collaboration,” she says. “We need to focus again on cities, on how urban policies are being shaped by Latinos and affecting Latinos. What are the critical urban policies that need to be involved in the shaping?”
Although the Faculty Diversity Initiative has increased the numbers of black faculty and female faculty in the past 10 years, the percentage of Latino faculty remains low.
The Faculty Diversity Initiative was launched in 2003 to increase the number of black faculty, the number of women faculty in areas where they are underrepresented and to enhance the climate for all faculty members. Although strides have been made towards these goals, there remain areas in which diversity can be improved—including the number of Latino faculty members, administrators said. While the number of regular rank black faculty has more than tripled from 1993 to 2012, the number of Latino faculty has been stagnant.
“It has been understood since 2003 that Latino/Latina faculty is an important category that we pay attention to in addition to black, women and more recently, LGBT groups,”said Academic Council Chair Joshua Socolar, a physics professor. “But the total number [of Latino faculty] right now is not great.”
Among the 1,768 tenured faculty members, 2 percent are Hispanic compared to 80.3 percent white, 13.6 percent Asian and 3.9 percent black, based on data from the Faculty Diversity Initiative Biannual Report in 2013. No other categories were included.
“[The low percentage of Latinos] is not for lack of awareness of the issue or lack of interest in hiring them to improve our faculty. Attention is being paid, though we have not been very successful,” Socolar said. “One thing we see as a way to make our faculty better is to make it more diverse and representative of all the groups, and there have been efforts.”
Multiple factors contribute to the underrepresentation of Latino faculty at the University, including historical reasons and the location of the University, wrote Nancy Allen, vice provost of faculty diversity and faculty development, in an email Friday. She also noted that more focus has been placed on the hiring and retention of black and female faculty, as opposed to Latino faculty.
Allen said that a North Carolina location is a likely reason why the University has fewer Latino professors compared to research institutions in California, Texas, and Florida.
Inderdeep Chatrath, director of affirmative action and equal opportunity at the Office of Institutional Equity, noted that the low percentage of Latino faculty is tied to the availability of Latino candidates both in the area and across the nation.
“It is not uncommon among other peer institutions that there are fewer Latino professors,” Chatrath said. “That is not an excuse, but generally the availability of faculty who identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino is lower than that of other ethnic minority groups.”
A number of peer universities identify similarly low proportions of Hispanic and Latino faculty—recent reports list the University of Pennsylvania with 1.8 percent Hispanic/Latino faculty, Cornell University with 3.2 percent and Stanford University with 4 percent. Chatrath added that representation of Latino faculty on campus also varies across disciplines.
“Some areas don’t have any faculty who identify themselves as Latino, and we have made progress in some areas more than others,” she said.
According to the Faculty Diversity Initiative Biannual Report in 2013, 75 percent of the regular rank Latino faculty in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences are employed in humanities departments.
“We don’t want to say we are doing fine if all our Latino faculty are doing Latino studies,” Socolar said.
Laurie Patton, dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an email Tuesday that in a slowed-down hiring environment, the college is not hiring as many professors as they would like. Trinity has hired four professors who self-reported their ethnicity as Hispanic/Latino in the last four years.
“This self-reported number likely slightly under represents the true number of Hispanic/Latino faculty we have hired. Regardless, we would like to hire even more,” Patton wrote. “The key will be both active recruitment and active retention. We see continued opportunity for growth in this area, and we need to be pro-active to the extent that we can, given our current overall hiring constraints.”
Luis Rosa, a Latino lecturer in the Thompson Writing Program, has been teaching at the University for three years. After his contract ends in May, he will have to apply for another job. Pulling from his experience working in a diversity office at Princeton University and on various committees at Duke, he noted that cultural idiosyncrasies are a significant reason behind the underrepresentation of minority faculty groups such as Latino faculty.
“The criteria some professors are using [when hiring new faculty] are not objective. They might think that this one candidate is too arrogant or that students would not like that candidate, but those are idiosyncratic arguments,” Rosa said. “If you are a male, white, upper middle-class bourgeois, your idiosyncrasies will make you like more somebody who is male, white, upper middle–class bourgeois.”
He added that affirmative action must be part of the criteria, and the University needs people with different worldviews.
“All objective values are tied to who we are," Rosa said. "If we don’t include the concrete criteria that we have to choose people who are different from us, people are going to keep choosing themselves."
Now that the 10-year diversity initiative is over, a new conversation in the Academic Council is under way to discuss what the next step should be to increase the presence of underrepresented minorities in faculty, Socolar said.
A pipeline program called the Provost’s Postdoctoral program was initiated in 2007 to enhance faculty diversity, and three of the 13 Provost’s postdoctoral researchers so far have been Latino, Allen said. The program provides opportunities for scholars with potential to become tenure track faculty, particularly in fields where there are fewer women and underrepresented minorities.
“The fact that there are meetings to talk about diversity and that the provost has many initiatives in place is a strong indication that diversity is a value that Duke is committed to,” Chatrath said. “It is not something that we can take care of in one year or even five years, but I am encouraged by the fact that we are doing something.”
The National Hispanic University in San Jose, Calif., has stopped enrolling new students due to financial problems, The San Jose Mercury News reported.
The struggling campus stunned students, faculty and community leaders who hoped the private college would become a powerhouse in Latino education, The San Jose Mercury News reported.
"The reality is we're in a very difficult financial situation," the university's president Gladys Ato told The San Jose Mercury News.
Ato added that the admissions moratorium was implemented to give university officials times to ponder the next move for the school. She said the college will focus on serving the 600 currently enrolled students.
Ato and Laureate Education Inc., a private college chain that purchased the university four years ago, declined to immediately discuss with reporters the next step for National Hispanic University.
Shortly after purchasing National Hispanic University, Laureate Education announced plans for introducing Internet classes at the school for up to 8,000 students. However, the plan did not mesh well with the school's ambition.
"That goal was never met," Ato said. "We were very, very far from reaching it."
In spring 2013, the school suffered another setback in 2013 when the U.S. Department of Education withdrew financial aid students enrolled in the university's liberal art program. The San Jose Mercury News reported that at the time, the federal government was "pulling back such support for degree programs that did not offer good prospects for employment."
The reluctance of university officials to publicly speak about their options "has opened a floodgate of fears that the East Side institution will close its doors for good or become just an online diploma mill," The San Jose Mercury News reported.
Latino community leader Victor Garza expressed his concern to The San Jose Mercury News about the future of National Hispanic University.
"What's next?" he asked. "They are talking like the patient who has body pains but won't tell you where it hurts."
Ato said she expects the university's board and Laureate to announce their plans within two months. According to The San Jose Mercury News, town hall meetings have been held with students and parents; another one is expected to be held Saturday morning.
UT's Latino Pan-Hellenic Council showcased talent from Latin American students active in the Greek community at UT.
The Latino Pan-Hellenic Council hosted a “Go Greek” event in the SAC auditorium on Jan. 24. The event showcased Latino Greek sororities and fraternities around the UT campus.
Javier Polo, president of LPHC, said the council hoped the event would give exposure to the different Latino organizations and help them grow.
“Going Greek gives students on campus a lot of opportunities,” Polo said. “For example, because of the strong support systems provided by these organizations, 98% of our members actually graduate.”
Each organization showed a promotional video and then performed a dance/salute. The Omega Delta Phi fraternity kicked off the evening. Their focused on the importance of chivalry throughout theirperformance.
Next, the Kappa Delta Chi sorority took the stage. Their catchphrase was “rush KDX and live happily ever after.” Contrasting to their fairytale-like theme, their performers were dressed in edgy fishnet leggings, shorts and boots.
The next fraternity to perform was Phi Iota Alpha, followed by the Lambda Theta Alpha sorority. LTA was the first Latino sorority in the nation, and currently has 140 chapters nation-wide. They performed one of their salutes, a tradition of LTA members.
LTA was followed by the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity who performed a step dance and ended with a human-made pyramid.
Sigma Delta Lambda was the next organization to take the stage. After they performed, the fraternity Lambda Theta Phi performed and introduced their own catchphrase- “it’s not about the shoes, it’s about what you do in them.”
The night was ended with a performance done by Sigma Lambda Gamma, which is the largest Latino-based sorority on campus.
Polo said LPHC puts on many events similar to Go Greek throughout the year, including Somos Latinos, a cultural event held in the fall.
“We hold events like these to help UT students learn about our culture and about minorities all around campus,” Polo said.
Where’s the American dream? Hardly a day goes by that the media doesn’t suggest a dwindling middle class in America with decreasing opportunity for social mobility.
Perhaps a more important question is, if this is true, where does this leave the Latino population? A recently released CUNY Graduate Center study examining household income of Latinos in New York City reveals details that speak to national trends.
“There are some differences, some quirks but generally what you find in New York City is a reflection of what you find around the nation,” Graduate Center City University Professor Laird W. Bergad told VOXXI. “We have a project called Latino Data Project, where we basically crunch hard numbers released by the census bureau and other government agencies to find out what’s really going on. The reason is a lot of the imagery created, particularly about Latinos, is anecdotal and some of the images are false.”
Bergad points to telling data regarding the percentage of households and total household income from 1990 to 2010 pertaining to the middle class.
“Do you have people in the middle?” Bergad said. “Absolutely. What’s the middle? The middle in New York City is not the middle in Peoria, Illinois, but you still have 37 percent of Latino families making between $40,000 and $100,000 a year controlling about 37 percent of [Latino population] income.”
Bergad said the middle class is an amorphous and nuanced description that ranges from blue-collar workers with high school diploma equivalents to professionals with higher education.
Are opportunities dwindling for the middle class?
The notion is that the rich are getting richer, thus hurting middle class America. However, Bergad isn’t certain that the upper class’s continued affluence is tied to the downfall of the lower and middle classes. Furthermore, he said the study underlines the direct correlation between education and social mobility.
“There are two separate processes here,” Bergad said. “I don’t think the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but that’s another issue as well. So the question comes back to, how do you create upper social mobility in a society? The answer is not rocket science. You’re not getting rich or moving up because you’re hitting the Lotto.
“You’re going to school and getting an education. The data is definitive, the greater the educational attainment level you have, the more income you’re making. So the key is going to college.”
He added the good news is more Latinos are headed to college than ever before in America. This is particularly true with domestic-born Hispanics.
What’s the real barrier to social mobility?
Sure the new study confirms what we already knew: that the rich are getting richer.
“But there are complexities and nuances that have to be examined when you look at income distribution,” Bergad said. “That there’s a hierarchy, social structure. There are wealthy families, households within every race, ethnic groups in the U.S. just as there are very poor households because poverty is a problem, especially childhood poverty.”
Bergad said the real story behind the study is that Latino families are often stereotyped as immigrant, undocumented and impoverished. What the data shows is Latinos can’t be pigeonholed into one social class.
“What I’m trying to do as an academic here is shed some light to those who are trying to understand with a little more sophistication within these communities there is a structure hierarchy, and we can’t make generalizations. Poverty remains a serious, serious problem, but there are wealthy Dominicans, Cubans and Mexicans. It’s not all a story of poverty.”
Higher education has always been the responsibility of students and colleges, but lately businesses have started paying special attention to the numbers of graduates – or lack thereof – in the United States.
Recently, the issue in California was highlighted with Campaign for College Opportunity’s “The State of Latinos in Higher Education” study. In a nutshell, the report reveals not only that Latinos are lagging behind other ethnicities when it comes to graduating from college, but that the state of California is headed towards a dire economic situation if changes aren’t implemented.
“There’s no closing the gaps that California has, in terms of the workers it needs just to maintain our economy without improving college graduation for Latinos,” said Campaign for College Opportunity Community Affairs Director Audrey Dow.
“By 2025, California needs 1 million additional bachelor degree holders just to maintain its current economy. That same year it also needs 2.3 million combined degree holders – bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degree, certificate holders.”
“The Campaign for College Opportunity’s report further demonstrates the need for California to have a comprehensive plan to improve completion and transfer rates for Latino students,” Silicon Valley Leadership Group Senior Vice President Dennis Cima said. “This is good for business, good for the Silicon Valley economy and good for California.”
Shortage of Trained & Educated Workers
The shortage of trained and educated workers paints California’s businesses in a corner. It’s anticipated many will be forced to close up shop, while others will relocate elsewhere stateside or even go overseas. “Either way,” Dow said, the solution is simple: “There is no way we can close those gaps without improving the rates of Latinos going to college.”
“Ensuring more Latinos in California – and in Los Angeles, where Latinos represent nearly 50 percent of the population – complete college is critical to creating a prepared workforce and robust economy for tomorrow,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The Latino Student Issue
“The State of Latinos in Higher Education” study points out the Hispanic population in California is roughly 14.5 million, which equates to 38 percent of the population. Naturally, that figure is expected to rise.
The report highlights the Californian Latino population is expected to gain majority status by 2050. Today, 11 percent of Latino adults have received a bachelor’s degree, compared to 48 percent of Asians and 39 percent of whites. However, the good news is estimates show California could boast an additional 790,000 four-year degrees if gaps in achievement and enrollment were closed.
“We think the first thing that has to happen is that California has to have a statewide plan for higher education,” Dow said.
“What we found with this report is Latinos are lacking their ethnic counterparts in terms of having the classes they need to be eligible for college. Many Latinos are going into community college and starting in pre-college level work. We know if students start college doing pre-college work, they are less likely to ever complete anything.”
Dow stressed these types of higher education barriers aren’t unique to Latinos; however, considering their large population, more are proportionately affected.
The report suggests that more resources be allocated to higher-need communities, instead of adhering to an antiquated 1960s master plan regarding enrollment at community colleges and four-year universities.
“So far 35 states have made plans within the last five years to have completion goals,” Dow said. “That is, ‘How many bachelor’s and associate’s degrees do we want to have per year? How many students do we want going to college?’ If we have goals articulated, then it’s easier for our colleges and universities to align resources towards those goals.”
She said the statewide focus should be on Latino students with money earmarked towards matriculation services such as orientation, tutoring centers, etc.
“There’s been a tremendous response across the state,” Dow said. “Nationally, folks see California as a harbinger of things to come. The Latino population is growing across the country and there’s a lot of interest in what happens in California.”
To keep our economy competitive and growing, we need to ensure that Californians achieve the level of education necessary for the workforce of the future. The business community is gravely concerned that many Californians will not be ready, and that has profound implications for our economy and way of life.
It's not just a matter of preparing our workforce. We are also concerned about creating a two-tier economy or a two-class California that will threaten our economic development and health.
These concerns have been growing for some time, but we now know more about the extent of this gap in educational accomplishment -- and the magnitude of the problem cannot be overstated or ignored.
A new report by the Campaign for College Opportunity concludes that the economic security of California is tied directly to Latino college success. The Latino population in California is now 14.5 million, 38 percent of the population and growing rapidly. One of every two youths under the age of 18 in California is Latino. But the study, "The State of Latinos in Higher Education: The economic and social imperative for advancing Latino college achievement, " found that Latino students are lagging other ethnicities in higher education. They are less likely to enroll in a four-year university, less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to enroll in college full-time and less likely to complete a bachelor's degree at a time when our economy increasingly demands it. Only 11 percent of Latino adults have earned at least a bachelor's degree compared to 39 percent of Whites and 48 percent of Asians. The level of degree completion by Latinos and the failure of our education system to adapt and address the problem are significant social justice issues, but we also consider them to be economic justice issues.
Without a sufficient level of Latino higher education success, California will not have the workforce necessary to fuel our economy, and we will lose the ability to properly fund government services with a large and growing tax base.
The increase in lifetime income for Californians who earn a college degree is substantial -- more than $1.3 million above their peers who only receive a high school diploma. Those increased earnings go right back into the economy through spending and investment, which in turn create jobs, opportunity and better quality of life for all Californians. College graduates in California are also producing $12 billion in additional tax revenues because of their higher earning power. And for every new dollar California invests in students, it will receive a net return of $4.50 from taxes on increased earnings of graduates, and lower costs for welfare programs and incarceration.
The need for greater educational attainment and the benefits are clear. What is also clear is that there is a will among Latinos: 83 percent of Latino parents hope their children will earn at least a bachelor's degree, and Latinos are graduating from high school in record numbers.
If we don't translate this new research into credible, public policy solutions, we will not resolve our workforce shortages and the California economy and all of us who live here will suffer in the long term. The challenges are large, but not insurmountable. The road to meaningful workforce and economic development starts with a clear recognition of the problem, and we now have the data. It's a problem for all Californians, and now is the time to pass the policies we need to solve it.
Rob Lapsley is president of the California Business Roundtable. He wrote this for this newspaper.