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  • 1. Latinos in Higher EducationRunning Head: LATINOS IN HIGHER EDUCATION Latinos in higher education: the past, present and future. Wendy Alemán Oregon State University 1
  • 2. Latinos in Higher Education According to the latest census, Latinos (also referred to as Hispanics) arenow the largest minority group in the United States, representing thirteen percentof the population (Schmidt, 2003). Latinos, as a whole, are a very diverse groupthat includes individuals from any race with Spanish origins. According to theChronicle (2003), "Although the term [Hispanic] is mainly applied to people fromLatin American countries with linguistic and cultural ties to Spain, it also is usedby the U.S. government to refer to Spaniards themselves, as well people fromPortuguese-speaking Brazil." (pg A9). In the United States, Mexicans (58.5%),Puerto Ricans (9.6%), and Cubans (3.5%) compose the largest segments of thispopulation (U.S. Census 2001). While more recent Latino immigrants of the U.S.prefer to identify themselves by nationality-based labels (Schmidt, 2003), theidentity of Latino or Hispanic has been generally used in the United States tounite this group for political or social reasons. Given that Latinos are one of the largest growing minority groups, thispaper examines the challenges Latinos have faced in gaining access to highereducation and examines the make-up of this collective group to betterunderstand their trends in higher education. Moreover, one cannot trulyunderstand the current status of Latinos in higher education without firstexamining the history of Latinos in the United States.The Past To accurately portray the challenges faced by Latinos pursuing aneducation (K-12 and post-secondary) in the United States, an examination of the 2
  • 3. Latinos in Higher Educationhistory of oppression and racism encountered by Mexican and MexicanAmericans is essential. In studying the history of Mexicans in the United States,it is perhaps best to begin with the Treaty of Gaudalupe-Hildago of 1848. Signed by the United States and Mexico at the conclusion of the U.S.-Mexican War, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo called for Mexico to give upalmost half of its territory which included California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texasand parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. According to PBS (n.d.) website onthe history of the Treaty of Guadalupe, At the time of the treaty, approximately 80,000 Mexicans lived in the ceded territory, which comprised only about 4 percent of Mexico’s population. Only a few people chose to remain Mexican citizens compared to the many that became United States citizens. Most of the 80,000 residents continued to live in the Southwest, believing in the guarantee that their property and civil rights would be protected. Sadly, this would not always be the case. By the end of the 19th century, most Mexicans had lost their land, either through force or fraud.From the beginning, access to education and rights granted to other citizenswere denied to Mexicans. According to a recent journal article on the impact ofthe Brown v. the Board of Education on the education of Latinos (Contreras &Valverde, 2004): 3
  • 4. Latinos in Higher Education Prior to Brown, the educational conditions and treatment of Latino and African Americans were much alike. Members of both groups were disenfranchised. Most Latino children, like their African American counterparts, were denied access to formal schooling. The few [Latinos] who received instruction attend segregated schools, commonly referred to in the Southwest as “Mexican Schools” that were clearly not equal to schools for Whites.Mexican schools were often staffed by student teachers from local colleges andchildren were often reprimanded for conversing in Spanish (Ruiz, 2001).According to Ruiz (2001), “Mexican schools, which emphasized vocationaleducation, served to funnel youth into the factories and building trades.” Thefirst state to formalize legislation to segregate Mexicans was the state of Arizonain 1899. In 1899, the state passed a bill that stipulated English as the languageof instruction in public schools. This same bill was later used by school districtsto segregate Spanish-speaking children using “Language deficiency” as anexcuse to separate children based on their surnames, regardless of theirproficiency in English (Contreras & Valverde, 2004). In the onset of the depression, segregation of Mexican’s children into“Mexican only” schools boomed just as the Mexican population saw an explosionof growth. Even in towns where Mexican children had quietly attended schoolwith white children, towns were suddenly building schools to keep the Mexicanstudents segregated. One of the first cases against Latino segregation was that 4
  • 5. Latinos in Higher Educationof Alvarez v. Lemon Grove School District (Ruiz, 2001). Until the town of LemonGrove decided to build a separate school for Mexican children, Mexican andwhite students had attended school together. Parents boycotted the decision ofhaving a separate school for their children and took the district to court with thehelp of the Mexican consult (Ruiz, 2001). Under the auspice of providing a facilityfor non-English speaking children the district attempted to defend its case,whereas the Mexican-American students “took the stand to prove theirknowledge of English.” (Ruiz, 2001). The judge presiding the case ordered the“immediate reinstatement” of Mexican children to their old school (Ruiz, 2001).Only five years earlier, in the case of Independent School District v. Salvatierra,the school district of Del Rio Independent in Texas was “…charged withseparating the Mexican American children merely because of their race. InSalvatierra, the district successfully contended that the students’ languagedeficiency warranted their separate schooling.” (Contreras et. al., pp. 471).However, the first major victory against segregation came with the case ofMendez v. Westminster School District. According to Contreras et. al. (2004): The first federal court decision on the segregation of Mexican American students was handed down in California in the Mendez v. Westminster School District (1946). In that case, the trial court ruled that separate schools with the same technical facilities did not satisfy the equal protection provisions of the Constitution. The Ninth Circuit Court affirmed the decision, finding that segregation of Mexican Americans denied them 5
  • 6. Latinos in Higher Education due process and equal protection. Despite this ruling, however, de facto segregation continued throughout California.Following the Mendez case was that of Delago v. Bastrop Independent SchoolDistrict (1948) that ruled that the districts actions of segregation were in violationof the 14th amendment. Contreas et. al. (2004) summarizes the oppression ofthe time in the following paragraph: …despite the rulings of Mendez, Delago, and Brown [vs. the Board of Education](1954), school officials continued to segregating Latinos from White students. This evasion was based on the technicality that Mexicans and other Latinos were also classified as “White” for desegregation purposes. As a result, in tri-ethnic settings, the post-Brown generation saw the desegregation of predominately African American school settings with Latino students while White students continued to be assigned to all- White schools.For many school districts, the classification of Mexicans as White provided themwith a loophole around Brown and allowed them to continue segregating Latinoand African American students. It would not be for another 16 years before thisloophole in the law was challenged. In the case of Cisneros v. Corpus ChristiIndependent School District (1970) the “…court declared Mexican Americans tobe an identifiable ethnic minority group for the purposes of public schoolsegregation. Further, it was the first circuit court case to hold that the principlesenunciated in Brown apply to Latinos as well as African Americans.” (Contreras 6
  • 7. Latinos in Higher Educationet. al. pp. 472). With the Cisneros decision, and the loophole closed, access toan equal education was a possibility, the year 1970. While it took many morelegislative acts to initiate desegregation plans throughout the country, it was thecivil rights movement of the 1960s that made great strides in opening equalaccess to education for Latinos.The Present Unfortunately, current trends of Latinos in higher education are grim. As atitle of a recent Pew Hispanic Research Center report (Fry, 2002) indicates“Latinos in higher education: many enroll, too few graduate.” Overall, there is alarge gap among traditional aged (age 18-24) Latinos enrolling in collegecompared to all other groups. According to The road to a college diploma: thecomplex reality of raising education achievements for Hispanics in the UnitedStates (2002), “in 2000, 10 percent of Hispanics ages 25 to 29 had completed abachelor’s degree or higher. In comparison, 34 percent of Whites and 18 percentof Blacks in this young adult age group had completed a bachelor’s degree.”According to Fry (2002), in the 18-to-24 year old age range “…only 35 percent ofLatino high school graduates in this age group are enrolled in college comparedto 46 percent of whites.” While many Latinos are enrolling, many more Latinosare failing to persist through degree attainment compared to other groups. Tounderstand the condition and current trends of Latinos in higher education it isimportant to look at the demographic that make up Latinos in the U.S. 7
  • 8. Latinos in Higher Education Trends of Latinos in higher education can be understood by examining thefollowing demographic characteristics: generational status, nationality of origin,type of college enrollment, and institution type. First and foremost, whendiscussing Latinos generational statuses it is important to understand theterminology used to describe immigrant status in the U.S. First generation statusrefers to newly arrived immigrants, while the term second generation is used todescribe the U.S. born children of these immigrants. Following this logic, thirdgeneration Latinos are those individuals born to second generation Latinos (i.e.third generation Latinos are born to “U.S. born Latinos”). Key findings of thePew Hispanic Research Report reveals several interesting trends in Latinoenrollment and degree attainment. Key findings of the report include thefollowing: 1) Native-born Latino high school graduate are enrolling in college at a higher rate than their foreign-born counterparts, and that [this] is especially true of the second generation, the U.S.-born children of immigrants. About 42 percent of second-generation Latinos in the 18- to-24 age range are enrolling in college, which is comparable to the enrollment rate for white students (46 %). The college enrollment rate is lower for first-generation Latino (26%) and for those with U.S.-born parents (third generation and later) enroll at about 36 percent. 2) There is no substantial difference across generations in the percentage of Latino high school graduates ages 18 to 24 who attend community college. 8
  • 9. Latinos in Higher Education 3) Enrollment in two-year colleges varies by national origin. Approximately 36 percent of Mexican college students in the 18-to-24- year-old old group attend two-year institutions compared to about 31 percent of Puerto Ricans and Cubans. 4) Cubans have by far the highest rate of college attendance of any Latino national origin group with nearly 45 percent of 18-to 24 year old high school graduates enrolled. For Mexicans, the comparable figure is 33 percent and for Puerto Ricans, 30 percent.What this means is that first generation and third generational students areenrolling in lower numbers than those born in the U.S. to immigrant parents(second generation Latinos). Overall, the trends reveal big differences innational origin and its influence in enrollment. Student affairs professional shouldunderstand the differences among nationalities and their trends in enrollment.Hence, we cannot make generalizations about Latinos as a group, and insteadwe need to look at the Latino subgroups. In addition to understandinggenerational status and nationality differences in enrollment, it is important tolook at how and where Latinos are enrolling in college. Other key findings of thePew Hispanic Report reveal the following: 1) Latinos are far more likely to be enrolled in two-year colleges than any other group. 9
  • 10. Latinos in Higher Education 2) About 40 percent of Latinos 18-to-24-year old college students attend two year institutions compared to about 25 percent of white and black students in that age group. 3) Latinos are fare more likely to be part-time students.Overall, a synthesis of Latino enrollment data reveals that Latinos (not includingCubans) are more likely to drop out of college when enrolled part time (Fry,2002). The reason for this trend seems to be that Latino students are enrolling incommunity college near their home, staying at home with family while enrollingpart time, and are more likely to be working full time. Fry (2001) states thereason for this as a “function of economic need” due to the following: “Among low-skilled Latino immigrants, household incomes are often built to acceptable levels by combining the earnings of several workers who each might be taking home poverty-level wages. Thus, there is intense pressure on young people, especially males, to contribute to the family welfare as soon as they are old enough to work.” (pp. 5).In recent research I conducted for student development theory with otherclassmates, I found this to be the case in one out of five males we interviewed.The big difference in familial pressure was generational status. The male studentwho had little support from family was a first generation student at OSU whoimmigrated to the U.S. with his dad to work. Hence, when this student indicatedthat he wanted to pursue higher education full time, his family could notcompletely understand or accept his decision. According to Fry (2001), “U.S. 10
  • 11. Latinos in Higher Educationborn Latinos 16 to 19 years old are four time more likely to be in school and notworking at all than their immigrant peers who came to the United States asadolescents.” When studying enrollment trends by nationality, almost half of allMexicans enrolled in college are attending two-year colleges (Fry, 2002).Another reason for this high enrollment rate of Latinos at community college isthe lower cost of tuition. While Latinos overall are enrolling in higher numbers,Latinos are more likely to drop out of college when enrolled at a communitycollege (National Center on Educational Statistics, 2000). A discussion of current trends of Latinos in higher education cannot gowithout exploring the role of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), which currentlyenrolls 50% of all Latinos enrolled in higher education (Dayton, Gonzalez-Vasquez, Martinez, and Plum, 2004). Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) can bedefined in one of two ways. The federal government defines this institution typeas those college or universities with at least 25% Latino full-time equivalentenrollment and also having 50% or more low-income students. Whereas, theHispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), the organization thathelped HSIs establish its federal recognition, acknowledges institutions with atleast 25% head count of Latino enrollment as “Hispanic Serving.” As opposed toHistorically Black Colleges that were established to serve African-Americans,HSIs were established to serve the majority, but through shifts in populationdemographics (i.e. by default of location), now serve a growing number ofLatinos (Benitez & DeAro, 2004). According to Benitez, et. al. 11
  • 12. Latinos in Higher Education There are approximately 242 HSIs located in fourteen states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; 128 of these are community colleges. Although HSIs make up only 7 percent of all nonprofit colleges and universities in the United States, they account for 54 percent of the total Latino student enrollment in higher education.In addition to enrolling over half of all Latinos, a majority of HSIs are 2-yearcolleges. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2002), excluding theforty-four four-year institutions in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, communitycolleges make up 65 percent of HSIs in the continental United States.Considering the numbers of Latinos enrolled in community colleges nation wide(60 percent Latinos compared to only 36 percent of white students), it is notsurprising that 65 percent of HSIs are community colleges. Knowing that mostLatinos are enrolling in community colleges and that over half of all Latinos areenrolling in HSIs, what can we do to improve the success of these students inhigher education?The Future Since the last census in 1990 to the 2000 census, the Latino populationhas increased by 57.9 percent. In view of this explosive growth, how will thegrowth of Latinos look in the future? The U.S. Census (Bergman, 2004) predictsthe following: 12
  • 13. Latinos in Higher Education Nearly 67 million people of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race) would be added to the nation’s population between 2000 and 2050. Their numbers are projected to grow from 35.6 million to 102.6 million, an increase of 188 percent. Their share of the nation’s population would nearly double, from 12.6 percent to 24.4 percent.Taken as a whole, it is predicted that this population growth will be reflected inLatino college enrollment. Since most Latinos enroll in community colleges dueto their proximity to family and their lower price tags (compared to four-yearcolleges), it is likely that the future will see a greater number of 2-year HispanicServing Institutions. Since it takes 25 percent head count to obtain this title fromHACU, we will likely see a growth in HSIs in areas with large Latino populations.According to the U.S. Census (2001), the largest areas with Latino populations ofone million or more include California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Arizona,and New Jersey; these states account for 76.8 of the entire U.S. Latinopopulation. Moreover, it is likely that many more Historically Black Colleges willgain the additional title of a Hispanic Serving Institution considering theirproximity to large Latino populations. While it easy to predict an increase in Latino enrollment, it is difficult topredict whether the gap in enrollment and degree attainment will change. Thisgap between enrollment and degree attainment can only change with thecommitment of administrators at two-year and four-year colleges.Conclusions 13
  • 14. Latinos in Higher Education Considering the Latino population is now the largest minority group in theUnited States and its population is expected to continue its tremendous growthtrend, we cannot ignore issues influencing Latino enrollment and their ultimatesuccess in college. In my opinion, the high number of Latinos enrolling incommunity colleges coupled by those Latinos enrolling part-time indicates thatthere is a greater need for financial aid. Community college tuition is attractive tomany low-income Latinos (especially Mexicans) because of its low cost incomparison to a four-year college. Because Latinos that work part-time have agreater drop-out risk, student affairs official need to make greater efforts toencourage Latinos to enroll full time as well as provide them the financialassistance to do so. Overall, initiatives to keep students enrolled at thecommunity colleges are needed. This includes policies that make transferring toa four-year college easy. To increase overall bachelor’s degree attainment, Latinos are more likelyto persist at a four-year college. Knowing this, outreach programs thatencourage Latinos to attend college should make greater efforts to promote four-year schools as the path for successful bachelor’s degree attainment. Moreover,because Latinos from low-socioeconomic status are likely to shy away from thelarger price tag of a university, more financial aid is need to encourage Latinos tochoose four-year schools over two-year community colleges. Until changes aremade in financial aid, enrollment of Latinos at four-year colleges will continue toremain low. At Oregon State University (OSU) for example, DiversityScholarships offered by the Admissions office have statistically been awarded to 14
  • 15. Latinos in Higher Educationmany more white students than minorities. OSU needs to make more of aneffort to identify the students who these scholarships were originally intended for.How can OSU do this without getting into conflict with equal protection? OSUneeds to lower the GPA of the diversity scholarship so that more minoritystudents qualify. Here are the current minimum requirements according to theOSU financial aid website: 3.65 GPA AND 1200 SAT/26 ACT for high school [OR], 3.65 GPA and 36 or more college credits for transfers [OR], 3.25 GPA. In addition Applicants must meet AT LEAST ONE of the following criteria: Member of an ethnic minority community OR Low income status (federal guidelines) OR Documented Disability.A recent panel discussion hosted by OSU Student Affairs on Latinos in HigherEducation echoed the need for access to financial aid. At least one student froma migrant worker background who served on the panel indicated that she wasoriginally accepted into OSU without a scholarship. As a result, she dropped herplans to attend OSU and decided to attend the local community college.However, much to her luck, the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP)was reinstated this fall (3 days before school started she was informed she wasaccepted into the CAMP program) and she was able to enroll at OSU. Whilesome students are finding resources/assistance to pay for college, many othersare not. Many more, like the student on the panel, are opting for the cheapertuition of community colleges. 15
  • 16. Latinos in Higher Education An important issue for Latinos overall is access to information. ManyLatinos currently enrolling in college are first-generation college students. Thesestudents do not have family members that know the ropes of applying forfinancial aid or searching for scholarships. Without any assistance from schoolofficials (either at the high school or college level), students are losingopportunities to compete for scholarships. Overall, four-year colleges need to recognize the role they can play in theoverall success of Latino degree attainment. While recognizing this role, four-year colleges need to make an explicit effort to attract Latino students to theseschools and offer the resources for them to attend. Outreach initiatives by four-year colleges may be the only way to change the trend of Latinos choosing toenroll part-time at community colleges. As a society, we should strive for aneducated workforce. Knowing that Latinos have a better chance at successwhen enrolled full-time at a four-year institution, we need to do better job atincreasing Latino enrollment at these schools. At OSU for example, currentenrollment of Latinos hovers around 3 percent. While overall enrollment ofLatinos at Oregon community colleges is at about 6.76 percent (OCCWD, 2003).The following recommendations for action are made by Brown, Santiago, andLopez (2003): 1) Foster a K-16 strategy to education. 2) Increase awareness through the educational pipeline about the challenges facing Latinos, 3) Close the information gap by widely disseminating accurate information about 16
  • 17. Latinos in Higher Education paying for college, and more effectively targeting outreach to Latino communities. To change the gap between enrollment and degree attainment, four-yearcolleges need to make a commitment to these recommendations. Overall, four-year colleges must be actively involved in recruiting Latinos and closing the gapof degree attainment.ReferencesBergman, M. (2004). Census Bureau Projects Tripling of Hispanic and Asian Populations in 50 Years: Non-Hispanic Whites may drop to half of total population. (Online). Retrieved: December 8, 2004. U.S. Census Bureau News, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington D.C. Website: Release/www/releases/archives/population/001720.htmlBrown, S.E., Santiago, D., & Lopez, E. (2003). Latinos in higher education: today and tomorrow. Change, 35 (2), 40-45.Contreras, A.R. & Valverde (1994). The impact of Brown on the Education of Latinos. Journal of Negro Education, 63, (3), 470-481.Fry, R. (2002). Latinos in higher education: many enroll, too few graduate. Pew Hispanic Center: Washington, DC.Laden, B. V. (2001). Hispanic-Serving Institutions: myths and realities. Peabody Journal of Education, 76 (1), 73-92.U.S. Census Bureau (2001). The Hispanic Population, Census 2000 brief. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.National Center for Education Statistics (2000). Descriptive Summary of 1995- 96. Beginning Postsecondary Students: 3 Years Later. NCES 2000-154. 97. Washington, DC: NCES.Oregon Community Colleges and Workforce Development (OCCWD) (2003). Oregon Community College 2002-2003 profile. State of Oregon publication.PBS (n.d.), Treaty of Guadalupe (online). Retrieved November 23, 2004.’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. (2002). The road to a college diploma: the complex reality of raising educational achievement for Hispanics in the United States. Washington, D.C.Ruiz, V. L. (2001). South by Southwest: Mexican Americans and segregated schooling, 1900-1950. OAH Magazine, Winter, 23-27.Schmidt (2003a). Acadme’s Hispanic Future: the nation’s largest minority group 17
  • 18. Latinos in Higher Education faces big obstacles in higher education and colleges struggle to find the right ways to help. Chronicle of Education, 50 (14), A8.Schmidt (2003b). The label “Hispanic” Irks some, but also unites. Chronicle of Education, 50 (14), A9.Stefkovich, J.A. & Terrence, L. (1994). A legal history of desegregation in higher education. Journal of Negro Education, 63 (3), 406-419.U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). (2002). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. Enrollment Survey, Completion Survey, Financial Survey, and Institutional Survey. 18