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Hispanic Students Hungry for College

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Some 98 percent of Hispanic high school students say they want to attend college, according to a new study. But according to the 2004 U.S. Census Bureau report, only 25 percent of Hispanics are currently enrolled at the nation’s colleges and universities. Activists are now trying to bridge that gap by addressing the factors that impede Hispanic students from fulfilling their dream of pursing a higher education.

The study, entitled the “College Preparation 2007,” was released this week in conjunction with a press conference and symposium to address college access issues. Activists and students at the symposium said the environment in which many Hispanics grow up in is simply not nurturing and fails to promote higher education as a viable option.

The Hispanic Heritage Fund, Excelencia in Education and the Hispanic College Fund called on the federal government to fund more college access programs for Hispanics.

“The environment that many Latino high school students experience is not as supportive as it needs to be in order to see college enrollment rates as high as their peers in other ethnicities,” said Ryan Munce, a researcher with the National Research Center for College and University Admissions, which conducted the study with the Hispanic Heritage Fund this year.

The environment that Munce was referring to was described in greater detail in the second segment of the conference, entitled “Voices: Hearing from Latino Students About College.” The panel discussion featured six Hispanic College Fund scholarship recipients.

“I was 16 years old when my father had a heart attack that pronounced him disabled and so I had to drop out of school to become the sole provider,” said Norma Rojas. “Now, at 27, I am not the traditional college student, but I am beginning my college career.”

Several of the students in the discussion related similar stories, with family circumstances threatening their dreams of higher education. They also spoke of communities with few role models to help them navigate the application and financial aid process. Many of the panelists said they had to find their own means of getting into college.

The Hispanic Heritage Fund and NRCCUA are hoping to change that reality by launching MyCollegeOptions.org, an online service dedicated to helping Hispanic students make their way from high school to college.

Steven Galvan, the fourth of seven children, followed his grandfather’s footsteps, enlisting in the military as a route to college.

“There are numerous jobs in Texas, especially in the automobile industries, and they suck people in by paying $12 an hour without having to be certified, and people think it’s a lot of money,” says Galvan. “But my grandfather told me that with education you only go up, and it can never be taken from you, and so I took his advice.”

The study says that 62 percent of Hispanics report that neither of their parents went to college and that they are more likely to learn about higher education opportunities through non-personal advertising such as direct mail or billboards.

The study was based on a survey of 2,820 high school students, half of whom were Hispanic.

Jose Antonin Tijerino, president and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Fund, says the press conference and symposium were the first step toward helping Hispanic students realize their college dreams.

U.S. Rep. Hilda L. Solis, D-Calif., says the effort to boost Hispanic college enrollment should start as early as the preschool years. She says college-prep programs like Upward Bound and other TRIO programs should be expanded and schools should play a larger role in nurturing and steering Hispanic kids toward college.

–Margaret Kamara

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