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Paving The Way for Latinos in Higher Education

July 07, 2015
One important way to revitalizing state economies is to increase the number of residents attending and graduating from college. The investment in higher education achievement for Latinos, the fastest growing population in the U.S., is vital to our economic growth. At 55 million, Hispanics accounted for more than half of the population growth between 2000 and 2012 in the U.S., yet as of 2013, roughly 15.7 percent of Hispanics hold a bachelor’s degree or higher according to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

By Devon Hernández MSW’16

Though the U.S. has experienced an increased percentage of Latinos who hold a bachelors degree, we must strengthen initiatives that support higher education attainment if the U.S. is to return to the top rankings in a competitive global economy. According to Laura D’Andrea Tyson, the return from higher education is roughly five to one for men and three to one for women, which is a net public benefit exceeding $250,000. Though the gender gap remains, both men and women generate considerable returns from their investment in higher education. D’Andrea goes on to state that roughly 60 percent of Hispanic and black students will not get a degree within six years at either a two- or four- year institution. This is a drastic concern for our economy as students are not able to equip themselves with the essential skillsets that allow them to prosper within competitive economy. By 2020 65 percent of all jobs are expected to require postsecondary education and training, which means efforts to improve higher education completion amongst Latinos are not only important for direct recipients but the workforce economy if the U.S. is to meet the demand of workers. The U.S. Census reports the Hispanic population is projected to increase to 119 million in 2060, an increase of 115 percent from its current population, making Latinos 29 percent, or more than one-quarter of the total population. With a population that is expected to drastically grow over the next few decades it is important that the U.S. work as a collective to ensure funding and retention rates for Hispanics are properly addressed as the return for higher education for this specific population is vital to our public benefit. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) was created by George H.W. Bush in 1990 to address the educational disparities faced by the Hispanic community. The Initiative’s goal is to restore the country to its role as a global leader in education, strengthening the Nation by expanding educational opportunities and improving educational outcomes for Hispanics of all ages. Through public-private partnership and in concert with the President’s Advisory’s Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Commission), the Initiative advances a strategic policy and outreach agenda to tackle critical educational challenges, including ensuring more Hispanic students enroll in and more importantly, complete college (ED, 2015). Another initiative taking action to increase educational attainment amongst Latinos is Exelencia in Education, a non-profit organization designed to accelerate Latino student success in higher education using data-driven analysis of the educational status of Latinos, and by promoting education policies and institutional practices that support their academic achievement. Such initiatives that support Latinos are necessary as they play important roles in ensuring that best practices and research are conducted while promoting Hispanic education.  In 1992, the Department of Education established a federal designation known as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) that became part of federal policy, as an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Corral et al., 2015). According to the Office of Postsecondary Education (2014), HSIs refer to institutions whose enrollments are at least 25 percent Hispanic, full-time, undergraduate, equivalent. HSIs are able to qualify for Title III and Title V grants as long as they enroll at least 25 percent undergraduate, FTE Hispanic students and have no less than 50 percent of their students be low-income. Title III grants are geared to increase the number of Hispanics in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields among both two- and four-year institutions, while Title V grants promote the general development of the college or university and expand opportunities for Hispanics in these intuitions (Higher Education Act of 1965). Federal funding provided to HSIs should be used to strengthen institutional programs, facilities, and/or services to expand educational opportunities for Hispanic students with the goal of increasing the retention rate and creating a path towards graduation. A recent report by the Center for Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) at the University of Pennsylvania describes various HSIs and Emerging HSI initiatives that support Latinos in higher education. The Center for Minority Serving Institution’s examination of both Emerging and Existing HSIs reveals the potential schools have for serving Latinos through funding opportunities and incentives (Corral et al., 2015). One key question addresses how Hispanic-Serving Institutions serve Latinos and how to measure the success that these programs have at enrolling and graduating Latino students. The Center for Minority Servicing Institutions states (2015), “more research should be done on this cadre of institutions to further examine the cultural and academic programs that they offer to serve Hispanic students.” Once further research is conducted, analysis can inform public policy decision to fund more Hispanic Servings Institutions that create successful programs and services that graduate Hispanic students within a reasonable period of time. Doing so will increase the net public benefit and more importantly allow our future Hispanic population to receive the support necessary to thrive within a competitive global economy.

References

Corral, D., Gasman, M., Nguyen, T., & Castro Samayoa, A. (2015, May 1). An         Examination of Existing and Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutions’ Latino Initiatives and Culture. Retrieved June 27, 2015.

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. (n.d.). Retrieved June 27,            2015.

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