Guest Post by Miguel A. Corona (@MiguelACorona)
A recent PEW Hispanic Research report provided much positive news for the nation’s largest ethnic/racial population regarding Latino college enrollments. Among some of the positive trends outlined in the report include:
- Latino college enrollment surged 24% from 2009 to 2010 increasing to 12.2 million Latinos enrolled in college as of October 2010.
- The percentage of Latinos completing high school increased three percent from 70% in 2009 to 73% in 2010. Of those graduates, 44% are attending college, an increase of five percent from 2009.
- Latino 18-24 year-olds exceeded the number of African-American students enrolled in college.
- Enrollment increases are not just associated to Latino population growth but overall educational accomplishments.
While these trends suggest that a college education is more accessible to Latino students, two worrying trends remain. First, the study reaffirms that the Latino higher educational path passes through 2-year colleges. Only 54% of Latinos attend 4-year institutions, as opposed to 73% of white college students. Second, only 13% of young Latino adults have earned at least a bachelor’s degree – the least of any major racial/ethnic group.
The PEW data suggests there are obvious leaks along the Latino educational “pipeline.” As a side note I’ve noted before that “pipeline” is a misnomer for characterizing the Latino higher education experience which resembles a circuit rather than a linear path. And herein, I believe, rests part of the college completion problem: a lack of understanding.
There are various factors that impact Latino college completion including persistent socio-economic challenges, the high number of first-generation Latino college students, the absence of college information, and many others. However, one of the most important factors, I would argue, is the lack of institutional support and commitment. Studies have demonstrated that fostering a strong academic and a social environment for Latino college students, particularly for those students at 2-year colleges, increases the probability that they will transfer to 4-year colleges and ultimately graduate.
As the Latino population expands beyond its traditional geographic centers, both 2-year and 4-year colleges must work harder to create proactive strategies in an effort to understand and reach Latino college students. Aggressive academic counseling, accelerated community building, and persistent student communication are just some strategies that can have an immediate impact on transfer and completion rates. There are many other strategies, of course, and this short article is not meant to provide all the solutions. There are experts more qualified than I who can provide exceptional guidance in this regard.
What I do hope to convey is this: it’s a tragedy that so many young talented Latinos are still escaping our grasp. Rather than adding another patch to an already leaky educational pipeline, let’s change our perspective. By creating a new paradigm and understanding that not all roads to college are equal, we can help unleash a new generation of leaders.
The issue of Latinos and education is complex and wide-ranging. With this in mind, the communication and support issues I’ve described can be addressed using the tools and resources available through social media, particularly for young adult Latinos. This is why I’ll be attending the LATISM National 2011 Conference this November in Chicago. I’m particularly looking forward to several panels addressing these very issues on its Public Service Track: The Role of Social Media in Education, Winning the Future, an Education TownHall with leaders from the White House Initiative for Hispanic Educational Excellence, and The Future of Learning: Transmedia Education. These panels will certainly address many of the issues and highlight viable solutions that may prove vital to the future of Latinos in higher education as well as the future of America.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Miguel Angel Corona is passionate about helping organizations understand, reach, and develop Latino talent. As a first-generation American, Miguel has utilized almost twenty years of professional experience to develop a multifaceted understanding of the social and cultural factors that impact Latino career choice and professional success. Miguel has also employed these personal and professional experiences to establish AdMentis Latino Talent Solutions, an independent consulting firm dedicated to assisting organizations tap the growing Latino workforce.