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.”

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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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