Edu-Wednesday – Ensuring America’s Future: An Educational Roadmap for Latinos

Guest Post by Andrés Henriquez (@AndresHenriquez)

Over the next several weeks many high school seniors will be receiving letters and emails from colleges. Some will shed tears of joy, others tears of disappointment. Many young people will be going on to some form of higher education.  Yet others, particularly a large percentage of Latino youth, will be far behind most of their peers in reaching post secondary education.

In 2009, President Obama set an ambitious goal for the US to become the top-ranked country in the world in college degree attainment by 2020 (the US has fallen from 1st and now ranks 12th in the share of adults ages 25 to 34 with postsecondary degrees). Achieving this goal will be difficult without significant improvement in the postsecondary completion rates of Latino students. According to the Camino a la Universidad – Road to College published by the Lumina Foundation, the number of Latinos in the country has grown significantly yet:

  • For every 100 Latino elementary school students, 48 drop out of high school and 52 graduate from high school
  • Of the 52 students who graduate from high school, 31 enroll in college.
  • Of the 31 who enroll in college, 20 go to a community college and 11 go to a four-year institution.
  • Of the 20 who go to a community college, just 2 transfer to a four-year college.
  • Of the 31 who enrolled in college, 10 graduate from college.
  • Of the 10 who graduate from college, 4 earn a graduate degree and less than 1 earns a doctorate. That means, just 10% of Latino students graduate from four year colleges and just 4% attain a graduate degree.

Building a College Going Latino Support Structure

As Jim Applegate, Vice President for Program Development at the Lumina Foundation, said to me at a meeting last week:

We know we can’t reach the goal with quality college degrees by 2025 without improvement of the fastest growing population in the country, though they have the lowest college-going rate.  This is not just a Latino issue but an American issue for the health of our democracy and our country.

Philanthropic foundations have supported a variety of organizations who are working to increase the number of students going on to college, especially first-generation college going students. The Bill & Melinda Gates and Lumina foundations have taken a lead in improving Latino education outcomes, especially with a recent initiative to support the organization Excelencia in Education which works to accelerate Latino success in higher education by linking research, policy and practice to inform policymakers who in turn advance programs that support higher educational achievement for Latinos.

Led by Sarita Brown, who served under President Clinton as Executive Director of the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, Excelencia is a one-stop shop for excellent research, programs and initiatives that help to serve Latino students in their college preparation and beyond.
Today, Wednesday, March 9th, Excelencia released “Roadmap for Ensuring America’s Future”, a report that identifies specific national, state and local actions that can accelerate Latino degree attainment and entry into the workforce.  Working with partner organizations around the country Excelencia will use data to track progress toward Latino college completion for the nation.  As Sarita Brown explained to me in a recent conversation:

America cannot achieve the globally competitive workforce of the future without a tactical plan to address Latino college completion.  The first product of collaboration among 60 national partners, the “Roadmap” is a tool for stimulating and facilitating dialogue in communities across the nation about action needed to increase degree attainment generally, and Latino degree attainment specifically.”

One of the partners Excelencia is working with is the Spanish language television network Univision to launch a multi-platform education campaign, Es el momento (This Is the Moment) educating Spanish-speaking parents and families about the path to college graduation and the important steps they can help with from early childhood and throughout their child’s college years.

One way to think about Excelencia is like a dashboard that  puts front and center the national conversation about the successes and struggles of Latinos in education. Without this visibility and awareness, it is unlikely policymakers will pay much attention to the needs of this fastest growing population. As former Secretary of Education Richard Riley said:

“Excelencia and other organizations are critical to guiding policymakers engage with our largest minority group to ensure we produce an educated workforce, which is essential for America’s domestic economy and to continue our global leadership.”

Resources and Read more:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrés Henríquez is a program officer in the National Program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, where he leads the Corporation’s work on standards and assessments as well as the work in adolescent literacy.  Prior to joining the Corporation, Henríquez served as the Assistant Director at the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) at the New York offices of the Education Development Center, Inc. He has also worked as a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington, as a senior research analyst at MTV Networks, a researcher at Sesame Workshop and taught for five years at a public elementary school in East Harlem. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Hamilton College and a M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University.

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  1. Co-Op Web 9 years ago

    Oh my goodness Andres! These stats are horrific!! Thank you for all that you are doing to improve these numbers and for improving the future of our Latino children.

    AnaRC 9 years ago

    This is a scandal. How can we let this happen without talking about it all day long. The future of Latinos is the future of this country. I wonder if the leaders in government and corporate America are aware of this sad reality. Thank you so much Andres for all you do in the area of education. Heroes like you make a real difference.

  3. Nathana Josephs 9 years ago

    Thank you for all you do Andres, we need to keep educating our brilliant Latino youth!

  4. Samuel Sánchez 9 years ago

    The data is “old.” The reaction, in most cases, is “old.” The problem/challenges are “old.” From the literature and personal volunteer experience, this can be turned around quickly if more of “us” engaged, volunteer, “adopted” a Latino child as our siblings, tutor them, “show them the way,” help the parents understand and appreciate the importance of education, continuously (not a one-time event). Too often I’ve found myself “alone” helping a Latino child while my Latino peers are “out and about” enjoying their success. My point is “this change,” in part, should start within. Many of us have made it. NOW give back while continuing your message. I’m sadden to say my 30 plus years of reaching out for the “cause” usually falls within death ears among our successful Latinos who REALLY have the “ammunition” to make a bigger difference among “Their Own” than government, nonprofits, and similar institutions. The Easily Verifiable: Look at your Latino’s friend’s Facebook and see if they are engaging in a “Happy Hour” with peers or “Happy Tutoring” with a Hispanic child in need. That data speaks for itself. Thank you and you have my support.

  5.' 9 years ago

    Excellent opportunity to make a difference, Congratulation we needed this and you can make a differences. Thanks!

    Andres Henriquez 9 years ago

    Thanks, Sam, for your continued passion and support of this work. We’ve known each other for many years and I now how hard you have personally worked on this issue. Rather than saying the data is old I’d like to suggest that it has been consistent for many years and has changed very little–which saddens us all. The data point that is a wake up call to policymakers is the demographic shift that has taken place in our country and the sheer numbers of Latinos that are both in public and private sectors–an opportunity to change the conversation, I believe. What’s more, there are always new audiences that need to be educated about the plight of Latinos in education, re-introduce the issues to businesses and policymakers and, as you state, re-engage younger professional Latinos who can join in mentoring and advocacy.Thanks for all that you have done in the past and all the good that I know you will do for our young people in the future.


    Samuel Sanchez 9 years ago

    Andres, I agree. It is just frustrating, which I am sure you can empathize. Waiting, waiting, waiting,..That’s what got me started in ’92. I got tired of waiting for local Hispanic business owners to focus on their “own” community, professional peers to focus on their “own” people, etc. I used to ask Latino business owners “Where do you think your future customers will come from?..If our kids are educated, therefore increase in income, they is a good chance they will come to YOU and spend their money versus the opposite.” I have to get back to my letter writing for Plan Parenthood and other programs a certain political party does not care. Gracias, you have 100% of my support NOW let’s get our other professional Latinos engage and active in our poor communities and as role models.

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