It’s no secret that Latino students face numerous hurdles regarding attaining a higher education, even at community colleges.
Data released last year shows 21.3 percent of Latino adults have earned an associate’s degree or higher compared to 40.1 percent of all adults. It’s for this reason that Excelencia in Education teamed up with the innovative Single Stop USA to create a national strategy to increase educational achievement of Latinos at community colleges.
The result is the two non-profits’ recently released study Supporting Latino Community College Students: An Investment in Our Economic Future. Its target is the non-traditional student.
Many Hispanic college students are the first in their family to attend and make choices to contain costs by enrolling at community colleges, going part-time and working more than 20 hours per week while enrolled.
“What we know is the important role that community colleges play in the country but particularly for Latino students, who enroll because they’re affordable, close to home and much more likely to respond to working students’ needs,” Excelencia in Education President Sarita Brown told VOXXI. “These are also institutions that are ready to adapt and innovate.”
Supporting Latino community college students
Together the two national organizations examined national data and institutional practices to better understand how Latino students pay for college and the factors that inform their college choices.
The report details how low degree attainment among Latinos is the result of several challenges, including college cost, limited college knowledge, increased family responsibilities and the need to work while enrolled.
Supporting Latino Community College Students: An Investment in Our Economic Future includes recommendations for federal, state, and community college leaders that include using the Higher Education Act reauthorization, incentives for colleges to implement student services aligned with retention, completion and employment outcomes, and investing in financial aid by providing student support services that address multiple barriers that can deter Latino student completion.
In addition, the study suggests developing dissemination strategies that will more effectively reach Latino, low-income and other post-traditional students, as well as addressing antiquated eligibility rules that disqualify some students from receiving aid that can help them complete college and attain self-sufficiency.
“As the largest community college district in America, we are on the front lines of serving these students,” said Rufus Glasper, chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges, which include 10 community colleges serving more than 260,000 students around Phoenix, Ariz. “The analysis and recommendations in this paper will be incredibly helpful as we work to ensure all of our students have the support and tools they need to complete their degrees.”
The Single Stop model
The new report touts the work of Single Stop, which at 17 community colleges across America – including eight with more than 25 percent Latino enrollment – is helping students file their taxes, apply for government benefits and receive financial and legal counseling from organizations in their communities.
More so, 38 percent of students served by Single Stop in 2012 were Latino, and more than 9,000 Latino community college students received pre-existing benefits and services to keep them enrolled.
In a nutshell, too few Latino students know there are resources available to assist with college cost, tax credits, food assistance and public health insurance.
“The Single Stop model takes that to a whole new level by tapping into federal and state financial resources, which are available to all students but oftentimes hard to find,” Brown said. “Through their model they’ve combined, through the use of technology, the profile of these resources and then identified community colleges that are ready to say, ‘Let’s go beyond the boundaries of our own campus and make all of this aid available.’”
Brown said the new study is a one-two punch, with both actual tactics of community colleges and engagement from real leaders in the field such as the American Association of Community Colleges, California Community Colleges, Miami Dade College, and Maricopa Community College District.
Considering Latinos represent over 20 percent of students in K-12 education and are projected to increase their representation more than other demographic groups, Brown said the time is now to make a difference.
“Is it alone the solution? No,” Brown said. “But I think it’s going to be a magnet for people who really want to serve this population and tap this human capital. People are going to say this is really something we should explore. And maybe in three months we can talk about it being a game changer.”