Study focuses on Hispanic students

Shari Theresia

A study considering different goals to prepare Hispanic students for higher education was released Dec. 4 by Excelencia in Education, the Tomas Rivera Institute and the California Policy Research center.

In 2005, Excelencia found that only nine percent of Hispanics in California held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The long-term benefits of a higher education degree are plentiful so they want to make sure students, as well as their parents, understand these benefits and take the steps necessary to achieve them.

One way to do this is to make college informational packages including information on preparing, saving and paying for college available to new parents in maternity wards. Or, if possible getting to students early on, in middle school, with classes on paying and preparing for college.

Although the fee per unit at community colleges has recently been reduced some students still find it hard to afford college. Excelencia suggests financial incentives as well as scholarships aimed toward low-income students as well as those students from under represented communities to keep students enrolled in college until degree completion.

Their Web site also states that more than half of Hispanic parents and 43 percent of Hispanic young adults couldn’t name one source of financial aid to pay for college. So along with financial incentives, Excelencia wants to bring financial education into the Hispanic community.

Pierce College has a Student Success Committee devoted to student achievement. At their recent meeting they discussed student engagement.

“One approach we discussed is to infuse student engagement opportunities directly into the classroom. For example, instructors can invite counselors to do a guest lecture on careers, or they can take the class on a field trip to an event or to an on campus program like the transfer center,” said Joy McCaslin, vice president of student affairs at Pierce.

“We also agreed that having a full time Student Activities Director would really help the students.”

Although these ideas seem helpful some students are unsure if all these programs will actually work.

“It isn’t that I think all the stuff being done won’t work, it’s just that so much time and money is spent on improving conditions for our community but not much ever changes,” said Pierce student Anthony Williams. “When I see change then I’ll be more interested.”

Williams may be correct. Although recent studies have shown major increase in enrollment at colleges and universities, Hispanic students don’t tend to finish their stay in school.

According to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Latino high school graduates of all ages go to college at a higher rate than most other major ethnic groups in the United States, but they trail all other groups in earning undergraduate degrees.”

Also Excelencia reports that the percentage of Hispanic students entering public institutions that offer bachelor’s degrees, has not changed much over the past 25 years. It has lingered between eight and 10 percent.

Other students disagree with Williams and believe that these steps to help the Hispanic community are steps in the right direction.

“I’m happy that Pierce and other groups are working to make changes and help Hispanics. I would love to see more of us graduating and then going on to make names for ourselves in the world,” said Pierce student Corina Castillo.

More information on this matter as well as many others concerning Hispanic students can be found on the Excelencia Web site at


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