Hispanic Students Face Challenges To Staying In College

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
October 8, 2009

A survey, released by the Pew Hispanic Center and reported in USA Today, finds that while 89% of Hispanics feel that getting a college education is important for success in life, less than half of them plan to get a degree. The main reasons are financial, insufficient English skills, little incentive to go to college, and a sense that no additional education is required for the kind of work they want.

In fact, 74% of the 2,012 Latinos, aged 16 to 25, that were surveyed for the study said that they had to leave school because they needed to work to support their families. In addition, 40% cited that they can't afford higher education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan acknowledged these difficulties at the recent annual Latino education summit presented by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. According to the article in La Prensa San Diego, he noted that they have the highest dropout rates of students between 16 and 25. While these rates are decreasing, 19% of Hispanic students leave school before finishing.

After stating "We need to educate our way into a better economy," the Secretary pointed to several sources of federal monies destined to make it easier for students to finance education: the economic stimulus bill and $17 billion in new funding for Pell Grants and efforts to simplify applications for student aid.

Aside from financial challenges, social factors have an effect on Hispanic students educational advancement. While more than three quarters of the students interviewed in the Pew study indicated that their parents believe that going to college is "the most important thing for you to do right after high school," they also said that their parents don't play an active enough role in their educations.

In addition, limited English skills, especially for foreign-born Hispanics, hinder student learning and decrease their desires to remain in school. According to McClatchy News, Richard Fry, a Pew Hispanic Center senior research associate, feels that because many of the foreign-born students participate in English as a Second Language programs, they become isolated from the larger student population. This observation is reflected in the finding that only 20% of foreign-born Latinos continue with school after age 18.

Mark Lopez, the Associate Director of the Pew Hispanic Center and author of the study, acknowledges that the research results could change public perceptions of Hispanic students and help schools address student needs and priorities.

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