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How Family Influences Latinos Decisions On Higher Education

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There is a serious problem facing America: the increase of Latino college enrollment. Yet, Latinos are scarce in higher education (Leon, 2003). There is a great percentage of Latinos attending college yet many don't stay. Now of course there are numerous factors that contribute to this reality. Family participation is a behemoth variable in a students decision on higher education.

Hispanics are second only to Asians in attending a college or university, so there is no doubt that Latino families are willing to invest in their children's education (Fry, 2003). The student must present a desire to obtain a higher-education. A child's well being comes from family structure and family stability (Sandefur, 2000). "Efforts need to focus on the Hispanic population, the students, and their families. Perceptions, values, and aspirations are all vital factors that are attached to the human element" (Rodriguez, 2002). It is known that an education pays off says a Census Bureau study. Individuals who hold degrees in law or medicine, for example, make about $110,000 a year compared to $30,000 that a high school graduate would attain (Valladares, 2003). There is a case where a Cuban immigrant by the name of Isabel Rodriguez that arrived in the United States at the age of 11 years old. With the help of family, she got the education she longed for. "I was lucky I had two older brothers and a very involved sister-in-law," Rodriguez said. Luckily, Rodriguez was not part of the high percentage of Latinos that do not earn a degree. It is known that 10 percent of Latino high school graduates are enrolled in college compared to 7 percent of the total high school graduate population (Fry, 2002).

Does family influence Latinos decisions on higher education? It is believed that choices pertained to higher education is based on how involved the family is in the student's educational setting. Some students are simply not informed well enough about the positive traits on higher-education. On other hand, parents don't know the importance of post-secondary education. Some say it may be a language barrier, "Based on the results of the focus groups, one of the largest barriers to students is limited information on colleges and higher education that is translated into Spanish," Parrino, a director for Latin Community Advancement, said (Albritton,2001). Whatever the reason, there are ways in which this issue is getting dealt with.

The President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans discovered some problems that lead to the educational crisis. It starts at home, "It's not the kids fault; it is our fault and that of our teachers, administrators, and others. The kids can learn," says Charles Garcia, a member of the commission (Valadores, 2003). Engaging parents in the education of their children is a way to solve the educational problem. There is a gap of enrollment between 18 to 24 year olds. Merely 35 percent of Latino high school graduates of that particular age are enrolled in college versus 46 percent of whites. Two-year colleges seem to be favored by Latinos with about 40 percent of 18 to 24 year old Latino college students, compared to about 25 percent of white and black students in the same age group. There is a visual view of the college enrollment rate of 18 to 24 year old high school students, shown in figure 1, which compares Latinos and whites. It also shows the attainment rate of 25 to 29 year old high school graduates (Facts in Brief, 2002). Clearly it shows that a vast majority of Latinos are not finishing school and attaining a college degree. Latinos are more likely to be enrolled part time in higher education. Seventy-five percent of Latinos are enrolled full time compared to 85 percent of white that are 18 to 24 years old (Fry, 2002).

Figure 1

Source: Facts in Brief: Latinos Enroll in Post-Secondary Institutions, but Retention still an issue, 2002

Many programs have been developed to inform students and parents on the importance of higher-education. One example would be "ENLACE y AVANCE: Students & Families Empowered for success." This persists of developing a partnership between communities and higher education institutions to produce more Latino college graduates by improving their access and retention in college (ENLACE 2003). It is meant to strengthen the educational journey k-16 for students and their families. This project will promote family literacy, student mentoring, tutoring, and increase the exposure of college. Additionally, there will be education of parents of the importance of education and higher education options while at the same time developing leadership skills and creating support networks (ENLACE 2003).

ENLACE (Engaging Latino Communities for Education) will not only benefit the California community, but will benefit the Southern New Mexico Area. "There are five goals to the Southern New Mexico project: supporting and encouraging informed academic planning: community involvement in supporting educational achievement; empowering families in the community to achieve greater access and academic success of Latino students; strengthening the collaborative investment of all stakeholders in the educational and economic development of area youth; and becoming agents for effective policy reform." (Hughes, 2001)

I believe that the parent's upbringing of their children will determine how they view post-secondary education as an option. I agree with the research because it is logical



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