By: Sydney Smith
“Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group, but the most poorly educated.”1Can the United States close the gap? The Latino population in the United States has exploded in the past decade, and with it, so has the number of Latinos pursuing higher education.2 In the past fifteen years, the percentage of Latino high school graduates that later attended college grew from twenty-two to twenty-seven percent.3 However, the progress currently remains uneven.4
The reason? Latinos tend to be in the lower economic class, and live in low-income communities, where high schools don’t adequately prepare their students for college.5Unfortunately, many Latinos end up in underfunded and overcrowded community colleges where they are likely the first generation in their family to attend college.6 “Nearly two-thirds of Latino children live in or near poverty, and less than [twenty] percent of low-income Latinos live in households where anyone has completed postsecondary education.”7
The biggest issue, however, seems to be a lack of representation on behalf of Latino children. This challenge has an impactful effect on the way that Latinos feel about themselves and their importance in society.8The lack of access to opportunities in secondary and higher education, along with the low representation of leaders in the community are some of the disadvantages that make the education process more difficult.9Many Latino students are the first in their families to seek higher education, a characteristic that makes them more likely to drop out.10Another issue that plagues the Latino community are cultural expectations.11The Latino culture socializes men to be providers of the household. This causes many Latino men to feel pressure to drop out and work to support their families.12On the other hand, women are raised to be caregivers and often find themselves “caught between two sets of demands.”13It is clear that the United States has had a long history with struggling to provide Latinos with the culturally responsive curriculum, school leadership, and bilingual education that is so desperately needed.
What is the Solution?
Schools around the United States have begun to apply different strategies in order to meet the unique needs of Latino students.14Some of these strategies include “sensitive planning, cultural understanding, community outreach, and parental involvement” – all allowing for Hispanic students to experience academic success.15 Research shows that many Latino students lack access to peers from the mainstream U.S. culture, which hinders their understanding of the norms, standards, and expectations of the larger society.16For instance, Latino students may rarely come into contact with anyone who has gone to college, much less a Latino college graduate.17This is only one of the reasons why ambitions and familiarity regarding getting to college never develop for young Latinos.18
Some organizations, such as Latinos for Education, have created missions such as “[to] place and connect essential Latino leaders in the education sector.”19Latinos for Educationprides itself in preparing the Latino community to break the cycle and create educational opportunities for the future generations of Latino students.20Representation is a huge factor for success as students find comfort in a professor they can relate to.21As the Latino student population grows, it is foreseeable that there will be pushback, however, acceptance is inevitable.22 With more representation in United States culture, Latinos are destined for success.23 Con ganas we can!24
1Patricia Gándara,Special Topic/The Latino Education Crisis, Meeting Students Where They Are, (Feb. 2010),http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb10/vol67/num05/The-Latino-Education-Crisis.aspx
2Kelly Field, More Hispanics are Going to College and Graduating, but Disparity Persists, PBS News Hour, (May 14, 2018, 4:53 PM) [hereinafter Disparity Persists]https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/more-hispanics-are-going-to-college-and-graduating-but-disparity-persists
5Jill Barshay, Behind the Latino College Degree Gap,Hechinger Report, (Jun. 18, 2018),https://hechingerreport.org/behind-the-latino-college-degree-gap/
6Antonelli Mejia, The Struggle of Representation: Reflecting on our Latinidad through the Walls of Acculturation and Self-Esteem,Latinos For Education, (Mar. 13, 2019) [hereinafter The Struggle of Representation] https://www.latinosforeducation.org/2019/03/13/struggle-of-representation/
7 Patricia Gándara,The Potential and Promise of Latino Students, American Educator, (Spring 2017), https://www.aft.org/ae/spring2017/gandara
8Mejia, supranote 6.
10Field, supranote 2.
14Sofia A. Villenas, Ethnographies de Lucha (of Struggle) in Latino Education: Toward Social Movement, American Anthropological Association, (Feb. 20, 2012), https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1548-1492.2011.01153.x
15Hispanics: Education Issues, National Education Association, http://www.nea.org/home/HispanicsEducation%20Issues.htm
19Mission, Latinos for Education, https://www.latinosforeducation.org/about-us/
21Mejia, supranote 6.
22Field, supranote 2.
23Mejia, supranote 6.
24 Willingly, we can!