Hispanic Students Face Tough Obstacles
On Road to Higher Education, Report SaysSAN JOSE, Calif.
Hispanic high school students are often derailed on the road to higher education by low expectations from teachers, poor understanding of the college admissions and financial aid processes, and little adult support, according to a study released last month.
The study, “With Diploma in Hand: Hispanic High School Seniors Talk About Their Future,” reveals findings from focus group research conducted by the Public Agenda for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
“The idea for this research began with an earlier survey showing that Hispanic parents place enormous emphasis on higher education,” says Dr. John Immerwahr, author of the report and a senior research fellow at Public Agenda. “They believe that a college education is a prerequisite for a good job and a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Despite this belief, statistics show that Hispanic high school students are less likely to go on to full-time higher education and less likely to graduate with a degree. The purpose of this research was to probe this gap.”
The analysis reports on interviews with 50 Hispanic high school seniors from Arizona, California, Illinois, New York and Texas. Some of the students interviewed were on a clear college track and others appeared unlikely to attend college. The middle group — referred to in the study as “college-maybes” — appeared academically qualified for college-level work, but still faced significant obstacles.
The “college-maybe” students often struggled with challenges ranging from lack of help with applications to lack of knowledge of the rules of the game to lack of financial resources.
“Unlike college-bound students from upper- and middle-class families, whose parents tend to be well-informed about higher education and heavily involved in the application process, these students seem to have to do all of the decision-making about their educational future themselves, with little adult guidance,” Immerwahr says.
The “college-maybes” were often poorly informed about the process of applying for college. Several students were prime candidates for financial aid, but were not aware that grants existed.
The youngsters in the group interviewed were also hampered by low expectations from their teachers. According to the report, “The teachers appeared to be so preoccupied and discouraged that they had little energy left for those students who really had a chance at further education.”
In addition, these interviews suggest that many “college-maybes” believed they needed to know what they would study in college before enrolling. “The idea of going to college without a specific career goal in mind made little sense to some of these students,” notes the report.
Students who faced these obstacles were more likely to make poor choices about their future. But with the support and influence of a parent or other adult, students could make a successful transition from high school to college, the report concludes.
“What this research suggests is that the decision to go to college requires a certain degree of knowledge, guidance and even faith in long-term rewards over short-term gains,” Immerwahr says. “Hispanic students are hardly unique in facing obstacles — yet they may be somewhat distinctive in their lack of support from knowledgeable, education-savvy adults who can help them overcome this typical teenage deficiency. In future research, we should assess how widespread these problems are across the Hispanic population.”
For more information or to view the entire report visit the Web site <www.highereducation.org>.
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