Hispanic Americans

Latina student's story about how professor reacted to word "hence" sets off debate on stereotypes

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Blog post called “Academia, Love Me Back” raises concerns about stereotypes and inclusivity.

Study suggests Texas's tuition policies suppressed Hispanic enrollment at research universities

A new study suggests that giving public research university boards in Texas the power to set tuition helped raise prices and suppress Hispanic enrollment.

Report: Top Difficulties Latinx Students Face

A new report examines the challenges that Latinx students face on the path to higher education, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UnidosUS, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, conducted eight listening sessions with 78 people with its affiliate organizations in several states prior to the pandemic, according to a news release. The focus on these students' experiences comes as Latinx students are predicted to make up more than one-quarter of the undergraduate student population by 2026.

The study found that 70 percent of Latinx students who enroll in college are first-generation students and thus lack family knowledge about the application process. These students can also face language barriers and challenges due to their immigration status.

Latinx students are also more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the report found. While Latinx families have one of the highest workforce participation rates, they are more likely than others to live in poverty. It can be difficult for them to figure out how to pay for college with lower incomes and less familial wealth. Students who spoke with the researchers talked about how economic stress was a large factor in their decision-making process for higher education.

The report also found some good news. Targeted institutional supports can help Latinx students thrive while pursuing an education, it states. There was a significant difference in the experiences of students who had access to programs like TRIO, a federally funded suite of programs that aim to provide services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds (such as first-generation students), or the College Assistance Migrant Program, which helps students who are seasonal farmworkers or children of such workers during their first year of undergraduate studies.

The report recommends improving student data, simplifying federal aid applications, making access to high-quality colleges more affordable for students with great needs and strengthening supports for Latinx and first-generation students, among other things.

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Report: How HSIs Support the Latinx Workforce

A new report examines how some Hispanic-serving institutions are preparing their Latinx students for the workforce.

Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit focused on improving and supporting Latinx student success, analyzed the practices at four HSIs: Felician University in New Jersey, Florida International University, Lehman College in New York and Texas Woman's University.

While the Latinx community is one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, the growth isn't reflected in degree attainment or in higher-paying jobs, the report said. In 2018, about one-quarter of Latinx Americans had an associate's degree or greater, compared to about half of whites.

Latinx are also overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. For example, Latinx workers represented 55 percent of painters and construction workers in 2018, but just 10 percent of management positions.

The four colleges in the report took similar approaches to support Latinx students so they can succeed in both college and the workforce, according to the report. Workforce preparation was a goal across their campuses, not just relegated to career services offices. The colleges adapted to changing workforce demands and changes in their student populations. They emphasized experiential learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom. They also revamped their workforce efforts using data. And they worked with local employers to meet regional demands and help ease the transition from college to work.

The report was originally scheduled to be released in March, but Excelencia delayed its publication to reach back to the institutions to see what had changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The colleges said they offered financial support to students as unemployment increased. As internships were canceled, many also reached out to Parker Dewey, which helps place students in remote microinternships. They also adapted to create virtual networking and mentoring opportunities for students.

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Michigan university focused on Latinx students, despite small numbers

Less than 10 percent of students at Grand Valley State University are Latinx. That hasn't stopped the university from making them a focus of supports.

Number of Latinx presidents not consistent with growth of Latinx student population

Despite increasing growth of the Latinx student demographic, the number of Latinx presidents has stayed roughly the same for decades -- something many administrators hope can be addressed.

Government policies could thwart the progress of Latinos and the country (essay)

In recent years, Latinos have made significant gains in education. For example, they are now graduating from high school at higher rates, and their dropout rates are lower than ever before. Moreover, Latinos are enrolling in higher education in record numbers -- surpassing their white and African-American counterparts.

Through a mix of policies and substantive initiatives, President Obama spurred forward the improvement of Latino education. During his eight years in office, he focused his efforts on areas that are often cited as having the most potential to improve Latino education, such as developing standards that helped ensure Latinos are ready for college and career, ending bullying in schools and communities, closing for-profit institutions that prey on vulnerable students, and providing college graduates relief from the burden of student loans.

Under the Trump administration, however, all of this progress toward improving the educational and career outcomes of Latino students is in danger of stalling and -- much worse -- reverting back to the disastrous educational attainment rates of the 1970s.

Here is just some of what is at stake.

Federal student aid. The previous administration made substantial contributions to bolster the federal student aid system. Pell Grants -- the signature federal aid program -- provided increased access to higher education for millions of Latino and low-income students across the country. In addition, the Obama administration worked to ease the burden of student loans through initiatives that reward students for their commitment to public service. President Trump’s recent actions have put these advancements in jeopardy through proposed reductions in federal student aid and the reversal of protections for student borrowers.

The 2018 budget proposal that the Trump administration released this week calls for the elimination of the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program -- the recipients of which are usually Pell-eligible students -- and cuts the Federal Work-Study program by nearly half. Such measures could significantly restrict access to education for Latinos and other low-income and minority students.

DACA and DAPA. In June 2012, Obama signed an executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides immigrant youth relief from deportation and an opportunity to secure employment. In November 2014, he also announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, intended to provide older immigrants the opportunity to earn a work permit and stay in the United States for up to three years. Both of these programs have the opportunity to impact the lives of millions of immigrants. To date, Trump has not canceled either of these programs but has spoken of potential abuses to DACA and appeared conflicted about it. Uncertainty looms over what will happen in the coming months, leaving students to fear what the future holds.

Campus climate. During his time in office, Obama worked diligently to end bullying and make sure that students felt safe in their schools and communities. Through those efforts, he raised the profile of this long-standing issue and initiated long-term solutions.

Since the last election, however, K-12 schools across the country have reported incidents that threaten the well-being of students. For example, in a Texas high school, students chanted “build the wall” during a volleyball match. And in many schools, there is continuing fear and anxiety among Latino children and racial and ethnic tensions. The consequences can be serious: research indicates that bullying negatively impacts educational attainment and is often linked to lower school achievement.

On college campuses across the country, many undergraduates are feeling a similar sense of fear and have been victims of similar incidents. Research indicates that women, low-income and minority students often face a chilly climate -- one filled with microaggressions and other psychologically damaging racist and sexist acts. In recent years, scholars and practitioners have worked to shed light on those acts and improve the situation for all students. But numerous acts of discrimination have continued to erupt over the past months on campuses across the country. Against this divisive backdrop, how will we ensure that all students feel safe and supported so that they can then thrive in and out of the classroom?

For-profit institutions. One of the key features of Obama’s higher education legacy is his enduring work to crack down on for-profit institutions. Such institutions are notorious for aggressively recruiting low-income, minority and otherwise vulnerable students without providing the appropriate supports to ensure their success. Under the new administration, it is highly likely that for-profit institutions will again return to prominence -- Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has close ties to the for-profit industry and has hinted at rolling back regulations for the industry. That will, in turn risk the futures of millions of Latinos, low-income students and veterans. If that were to happen, how will we ensure that such vulnerable student populations are gainfully employed upon completing their degrees?

All the policies that I’ve described will have implications not only for Latinos but also for our nation as a whole. Latinos are the fastest-growing population in the country as well as the youngest. If we do not stand up and ensure that Latinos have the educational supports and resources necessary to succeed, what will our country look like in the coming decades? We will not be “making America great again.” We will be taking our country backward to the late 1940s and 1950s, when marginalized groups were fighting for basic rights -- like access to an education.

University administrators and policy makers all have a role to play in ensuring that that Latino students feel supported during these difficult times. Institutional leaders can establish campuswide initiatives such as dialogues on diversity to ensure that all students feel comfortable and supported as they pursue their education. They can also provide direct support to students through safe spaces and diversity training so that more students can expand their view of the world and the importance of different viewpoints. And policy makers can and should advocate for effective policies that will support Latino students throughout K-12 and postsecondary education. Through such efforts, we will be able to improve Latino higher education in the United States and ultimately improve the future of our nation.

Amilcar Guzman is a third-year doctoral student in in higher education at the University of Maryland at College Park, where he studies the postsecondary outcomes of Latino college graduates. He is also the national president of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Alumni Association. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @AmilcarGuzman1.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017
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Many elements beyond financial aid are needed to help underrepresented students succeed (essay)

There is a common expression -- “just throw money at the problem” and it will be fixed. But providing adequate financial support plays only a small part in supporting college students from particular sectors -- underrepresented minorities, those who are first in their families to attend college and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds -- to successfully complete an undergraduate degree.

For such students to succeed, universities need to make a consistent and sustainable institutional commitment toward that goal. They must examine their internal organizational structures and processes to determine those that may need to be rethought or reworked. Senior administrators as well as faculty and staff members should develop what the University of Southern California’s Center for Urban Education calls “equity-mindedness.” That broad institutional approach accepts responsibility and accountability for student success, as opposed to viewing any student challenges through a lens of student deficiency, ill preparedness, or “the student’s fault.”

This is what the University of La Verne -- a federally designated Hispanic-serving institution with more than 3,600 Latino students, a near majority of first-generation students and more than 1,400 students on Pell Grants -- is doing. It is also what other universities like Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of California, Santa Barbara, have modeled. This past spring, we were all featured in an Excelencia in Education report that described the tactics that our institutions are using to enroll, retain and graduate more Latino/a students, in particular.

Far beyond only financial assistance, our universities have maintained organizational structures, cocurricular support opportunities and academic curricula that create an environment that helps not only Latino/a students but, in fact, all students to exceed expectations. And all our institutions are in it for the long haul; we introduce many of our initiatives when students are still in high school, provide continuing programs throughout their college years and also offer some initiatives for career and life success after graduation.

Some of the key areas we focus on include:

Recruiting. Support must begin before students apply to college. At the University of La Verne’s annual Latino Education Access and Development conference, high school students and their families meet and engage with Latino professionals, faculty members, alumni and current students -- building rapport and encouraging a sense of belonging among first-generation applicants. Similarly, UC Santa Barbara’s LA2SB program and UC Berkeley’s RAZA Day attempt to demystify the college experience by bringing high school students to their campuses for admissions presentations, tours and meetings with professors. Such programs help all high school students, but they are particularly effective for first-generation students and their entire families, as those students begin to picture themselves as college graduates for the first time.

Retention. It is often assumed that first-generation minority students enter college with the same hopes and expectations as their classmates. Yet they generally arrive with fewer of the skills needed for college success as well as far less familiarity with a higher education environment. It can be daunting for every student to navigate a complex university environment, build college-appropriate study habits, actively seek meaningful advice and counsel, engage in cocurricular activities, and connect with student peers and faculty members. But first-generation, low-income and minority students often face additional challenges. For example, employment obligations are paramount for lower-income students, many of whom are returning to school and are older than the traditional undergraduate age of 18 to 23 years old. Many of these students may also be caring for elderly relatives, siblings or their own children.

UC Santa Barbara and the University of La Verne both employ tactics for continually advising students who are at risk of falling behind in their courses and intervening where necessary. As an example of the need for an intentional focus on those students, consider the first-generation student who gets a D on a biology exam. For most students that might mean, “I need to study more,” or “I need a tutor,” or “I’ll do better next time.” A first-generation student often draws an entirely different conclusion that may sound like, “I guess I really don’t belong in college,” “I am wasting time and money,” or “I cannot succeed here.” Early and active advising stops that thought pattern, boosts students’ self-confidence and helps them develop a sense of belonging. We also offer mentoring programs with a demographic-specific focus, including peer, group and staff mentoring specifically for first-generation students or men of underrepresented populations.

Establishing a sense of community on the campus is also vital. UC Berkeley and Stanford offer Chicano and Latino centers as places to help foster a feeling of belonging among Latino students. The University of La Verne provides a thriving Latino student forum, a first-generation club, a common ground club that promotes religious diversity, a multicultural center and regular programming focused on student identity. We also routinely support events such as the Latino Heritage Month Fiesta, Black History Month Celebration and National Coming Out Day.

Through our signature four-year undergraduate program, The La Verne Experience, we integrate high-impact practices throughout every student’s undergraduate years. Those practices include interdisciplinary, student-focused learning communities intended to increase academic and personal support between student peers and faculty members. Starting in the freshman year, such communities gather entering freshman and transfer students with similar interests into the same set of three linked classes -- two distinct discipline classes and a smaller writing class. Over the following years, a series of cocurricular activities supplement what students learn in the classes. In addition, we offer high-touch/high-tech tutoring and career services in person and through telepresence across the university’s multiple campuses. (Telepresence is essential for the university’s regional campuses and of great value to students over traditional age.)

The La Verne Experience also includes mandatory civic and community-engagement activities, bringing curricular theory into practice and keeping students’ interests tied to their cities and focused on the assets of both the students and their home communities. During New Student Community Engagement Day, held on the Saturday before fall classes begin, first-year and transfer students volunteer across more than 20 community organizations. They distribute water and ice cream at Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, meet with incarcerated women and their children in Pomona, paint a mural at the Boys and Girls Club of Pomona Valley, or clean and harvest at the Huerta del Valle Community Garden in Ontario.

Students also become examples to other youth in their communities by demonstrating what is possible when they attend an institution that offers an inclusive environment and is attuned to supporting all students. One University of La Verne student who was raised in the foster care system fulfilled his academic community engagement requirement by volunteering at a group home, where he worked with children who shared his background. He found his own mission mentoring those children, and after he completed his service in his junior year, the organization hired him on its staff, where he continued to work after graduation.

Of course, in some situations throwing money at the problem -- expanding financial-aid opportunities to increase retention -- can be an important and effective strategy. The Excelencia report itemized various creative approaches in the junior and senior year of college. UC Santa Barbara awards some low-income high school graduates $120,000 scholarships to cover all four years of education, which reassures students from the outset that their financial needs will be met through graduation. At the University of La Verne, we offer additional scholarships when students might have to step out of college as a result of an increased or changing financial need. We also hold Starbucks nights at local coffee shops for students and their parents to discuss -- in Spanish, if necessary -- the financial aid that will be available at any point in their education.

Graduation. Career preparedness and workforce connections should be threaded throughout students’ experiences, beginning when they first arrive on campus. For example, The Convergence -- a partnership between our university and local health care organizations -- generates employment opportunities for our graduates in fields where diversity is highly desired. By working together, the partner organizations are more accurately forecasting workforce trends and developing educational programs and campaigns to make sure students are graduating with the knowledge and skills needed to for high-paying, meaningful careers. Just recently, the university launched a physician assistant program in response to the feedback we received about the need for the profession in the region.

We also provide extensive undergraduate research opportunities for all students. Any opportunity to bridge theory, skills and practice -- such as with research, community engagement or internships -- assists students to understand and appreciate the relevance and value of their education.

The results of these and other focused and intentional practices aimed at supporting the student body at our institution have been noticeable. Our four-year graduation rate has increased from 40 percent to nearly 50 percent in three years. The six-year graduation rate climbed from 59 percent to 64 percent in just one year.

Enhancing financial support alone did not achieve this improvement in student outcomes. While scholarships and other forms of student aid cannot be undervalued, it is the responsibility of a university’s leadership, along with the entire campus, to build an academic environment where all students feel comfortable, connected and confident, where they access support and resources are available to them, and where they realize the institution is focused on their ultimate success. You cannot put a price on that.

Devorah Lieberman is president of the University of La Verne.

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Students adopt gender-nonspecific term 'Latinx' to be more inclusive

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Many student groups are changing their names to use "Latinx" instead of "Latino" and "Latina."

Puerto Rico-based medical university looks to answer physician shortage crisis

The country's only LCME accredited  for-profit medical school is working to increase the number of bilingual and multicultural physicians in the U.S.

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