College is becoming increasingly unaffordable for more and more Latino students, according to a new report released yesterday by the Campaign for America’s Future. The full cost of college for one year at a public university now consumes one-third of the annual median household income for Hispanics compared to one-quarter of annual median household income for a non-Hispanic, White family.
According to the report, the average cost of attending a public four-year college has increased by 42 percent since 2000, sticking students with a $2,786 hike in costs. Over the same period, the latest Census data show that median family income has fallen 4 percent for Hispanics and 2 percent overall.
“The cuts in student loan programs aren’t an accident,” says Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “They are a direct expression of the conservative commitment to dismantling government. From college to health care, conservatives argue that ‘You are on your own,’ but for Latino students without the good fortune of being born to privilege, this is shutting the door on opportunity, at great cost to this country.”
The United States no longer leads the world in the number of students receiving a college education, says the report. Now the U.S. ranks 13th in affordability and 4th in accessibility among European and North American countries.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rep. Hilda L. Solis, D-Calif., called on Congress to take steps to make college affordable. They were joined by League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) executive director Brent Wilkes.
“For most Latino students college affordability and financial aid are the determining factors when making decisions about their college education,” says Solis. “Therefore, it is disgraceful that the Republican leadership slashed federal student aid by $12 billion while college costs keep skyrocketing.”
Grijalva says Congress must cut student loan interest rates in half and re-invest in the Pell Grant Program.
“When I talk to students, their first concern is how to pay for college and the issue of how to use their potential becomes secondary,” Grijalva says. “We are closing the door on a generation of people. No child should be denied the opportunity to pursue education because he is poor.”
The new report suggests that with tuition costs rising far faster than inflation, real wages still stagnating, federal assistance shrinking and states cutting back institutional support, millions of students are therefore foregoing college, dropping out, or incurring serious debt.
Wilkes of LULAC says the idea that you can work hard and go to college is a fallacy now. “Hispanics have almost a 50 percent high-school dropout rate and a 12 percent college dropout rate. Combine that with the growth rate of Hispanics and we’re talking about a recipe for disaster.”
Solis, who represents the people of East Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley in California, says local community colleges have seen a dramatic decline in Hispanic enrollment. Rio Hondo Community College had to cut back on classes due to lack of students.
The full report is available at home.ourfuture.org/reports/latinos_highered.pdf
— By Shilpa Banerji
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