THE BLOG
03/31/2016 12:42 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2017

Complexities of a College Education for Some Hispanic Students

I often find myself telling my students that education is their passport to prosperity. I believe that my role as an educator doesn't limit itself to teaching about academic matters. I see myself as a guide, a coach, a mentor. Many if not most of the young adults I work with come from a disadvantaged socio-economic background. They have escaped misery, civil unrest, oppressive governments, economic instability as well as other personal or family threats. In a new country full of opportunities, they want to succeed but due to the differences in language, culture, and the education system, life becomes complicated. Add to this the necessity to help out the family. When one does not speak the language and/or have a degree, the few jobs available pay mostly the minimum. As a result, some of these young adults continuously juggle their education with work or simply, education takes a seat in the back. That is the reality that many Hispanic students face. It is not that they lack interest or don't have goals to complete their college education; it is that reaching these goals becomes increasingly difficult.

Although more Hispanics are enrolling in college, according to the Pew Research Center (Krogstad, 2014, ¶ 6), "In 2013, among Hispanics ages 25 to 29, just 15% of Hispanics have a bachelor's degree or higher. By comparison, among the same age group, about 40% of whites have a bachelor's degree or higher (as do 20% of blacks and 60% of Asians)." This evidence clearly reflects the educational disparity between Hispanics and other ethnic groups in the US. Considering the challenges nations face in a globally competitive environment, as the Hispanic population grows in the US, the need to have educated people grows as well.

It is of importance to note that oftentimes these students are the first ones in their family to attend college. Bringing home a diploma, the coveted piece of paper, would undoubtedly provide a sense of pride and the hope that with this accomplishment the family might improve its economic situation. However, increasing enrollment in college does not necessarily mean completion. In California, "At East Los Angeles College... , about 24,000 Latino students enrolled in the year 2011-12, but only about 1,000 completed their Associate Degree that year" (nbcews.com, 2014, ¶ 5). When students enroll, they may have the best intentions to graduate until they encounter the demands that a full load of classes places on them in addition to the other responsibilities they may continue to have helping their loved ones.

Unlike the preceding situation in California and many parts of the country, in Florida, Miami Dade College tops the list in the United States of post secondary institutions awarding associate degrees to Hispanics; similarly, Florida International University tops the list in awarding bachelor's degrees (nbcnews.com, 2014). These results do not necessarily mean that the Hispanic student population in Florida has better economic means or advantages. These students come to the classroom with the same needs as others with the same demographic characteristics around the nation. With the hope that a difference will be made to change the direction of their lives, in the classrooms, instructors skillfully guide not only Hispanics but also other students who may be encountering similar issues in the pursuit of a college education.

As spring breathes new beginnings, graduation time is approaching. On that special day, I will happily take my place on stage to read the names of those students who through much sacrifice will walk across the stage and be cheered by their proud relatives. I will proudly be cheering for them as well.

References

Krogstad, J. M. (2014). 5 facts about Latinos and education. Pew Research Center. Retrieved
from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/26/5-facts-about-latinos-and-education/

nbcnews.com (2014). Latino college completion rates low despite enrollment. Retrieved from
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/latino-college-completion-rates-low-despite-enrollment-n80326