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Excelencia Offers Specific Strategies For Boosting Latino College Enrollment

For California to remain economically competitive, higher percentages of Latino students must begin attending Golden State colleges and universities, says a study released today that provides 17 specific recommendations for making that a reality.

Produced by a consortium of education activists, the position paper offers a laundry list of potential remedies that will be presented to California legislators and public university heads later this month. The recommendations, which have already caught the attention of other states, are seen as potential remedies for what is a national problem: ensuring the next generation of workers, who are largely Hispanic, is educated.

The initiative was spearheaded by Excelencia in Education, a non-profit Latino education organization based in Washington, D.C. Excelencia collaborated with the California Policy Research Center and the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute to produce a 24-page study titled “Moving Beyond Research: California Policy Options to Accelerate Latino Student Success in Higher Education.”

Moving Beyond Research came up with 17 proposals for coaxing more Latinos into California colleges and universities over the next 15 years. All of the proposals fall under three areas:

–  Helping Latino students and parents to fully appreciate the importance of higher education.

–  Making a college education affordable.

–  Boosting the numbers of California Latinos earning postsecondary degrees.

One proposal in Moving Beyond Research called for higher-education students to receive financial incentives to stay continuously enrolled, until completing a degree. 

Latinos represent 46 percent of school-age children in California, but only 29 percent of students being admitted to community colleges, according to Moving Beyond Research. Furthermore, only 8 percent of the students entering the California State University system are Latino, a number that falls to 3 percent in the University of California system.

The lead author of Moving Beyond Research is Deborah Santiago, Excelencia in Education’s vice president for policy and research. Santiago says the importance of having more California Latinos receive college degrees became obvious to her last year, when she was completing her doctorate in education policy at the University of Southern California.

Santiago says it is critical to move beyond the realm of rhetoric. The last thing she wanted to do was merely point out that the future of California’s economy is tied to Latino education.

“We want there to be action, so we thought we would put on paper things that are actionable,” Santiago says. “So our work is not done with the report — we have an engagement strategy that will take us, we think, to another action level.

“We already have scheduled meetings with the Cal State Universities president’s office, the California Legislature’s Latino caucus, and the University of California regents.”

Those meetings will take place in the early part of December, and Santiago is hopeful they lead to some of Moving Beyond Research’s suggestions being implemented in 2007.

Moving Beyond Research notes that California is currently experiencing five trends that make it critical to turbocharge Latino education. One is a growth trend within California’s Latino population segment that surpasses those of other population groups.

It took two and a half months to produce Moving Beyond Research, which was finished in November. The study was made possible by a $100,000 grant from USA Funds, according to Santiago, who says elected officials from Florida and New Mexico have contacted her to find out more about the study.

The Florida and New Mexico queries are a positive sign, says Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities spokesman John Moder.

“Because the demographic wave is pretty clear,” Moder says. “The issue is really a national one, of whether we’re going to have an educated workforce in the coming generation or not. I keep recalling a Department of Labor estimate that by 2020, one out of two new workers is going to be Hispanic.

“If we don’t do a better job of addressing higher education issues for Hispanics, and for minorities in general, we’re going to wind up with an under-educated workforce in a generation,” Moder cautions.

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