California Latino Students: Unfulfilled Educational Potential

What is most glaring after reading the recently released study by the Campaign for College Opportunity regarding the attendance of Latino students at the various levels of the state’s post-secondary educational system(i.e. California Community Colleges{CCC}, the California State University{CSU} schools and the University of California{UC} schools) and their graduation rates is what is not emphasized in the statistics nor the media analysis. The report and the media seem more interested in promoting the creation of a mandate that each level have a proportion of Latino students equal to the percentage number of eligible Latino students in the general population and less in addressing major questions which are fundamental.

These issues include the high school graduation rates of Latino students in California, the related academic preparation/achievement of the students, and the support resources needed to plan for attendance at the more prestigious state public schools. Looking at these less emphasized points in the report provide a better view to a solution than those emphasized in the report and the main stream media reports on it.

Latino students in California are less likely to finish high school or obtain a GED than their counterparts in other racial groups in the state. Just over 40% of Latinos do not have a High School diploma/GED. This compares with 19% for California overall(Whites 6%, African Americans 11%, and Asian/Pacific Islanders 14%) according to the 2011 Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Latino students who do graduate high school are less likely to have completed the A-G curriculum, a set of courses students usually complete in their 9th to 12th grade years, which are a prerequisite for even consideration for attendance at schools in the CSU and UC systems. Only three in ten Latino and African American high school graduates have completed the requirements, compared to 45% of white students and 65% of Asian/Pacific Islander students according to the California Department of Education. Data reported by the CSU system found that nearly 60 percent of students entering
the CSU enrolled in pre-college level courses. For Latinos entering the CSU, that share is even greater—75 percent—compared to 41 percent of Whites. Among the California Community Colleges, 85 percent of incoming students are assessed to be unprepared for college-level math and 70 percent unprepared for college-level English. This points to the conclusion that many of the root issues which need to be addressed in the local community public schools before the numbers will change in post-secondary institutions.

A comment on the website of KION Channel 46 in Salinas in response to the story of the release of the study cited at the beginning of this article sums up, a bit crudely, the realities of the public secondary education system here in California for Latino students, “Let’s see, we have 40+ years of Head Start, free preschool, so called “bilingual” education (reinforcing the slave language imposed upon the brown Mexican native peoples by their white European oppressors) ESL, Migrant Ed, Chicano history classes, free tutoring, free tuition at Hartnell and CSUMB for MANY students of Mexican ancestry and now, the Dream Act, and STILL students of Mexican ancestry are falling behind in college graduation rates?”

Access for Latino students and their parents to academic guidance and financial counseling to make attendance at the higher level institutions a real possibility is a final important glossed over issue in the study. The low income circumstances of many of the Latino students like those of their White, African American, and Asian/Pacific Islander counterparts play an important factor in what level of post-secondary institution they will be able to attend. Low-income students may face a variety of obstacles such as financial uncertainty, expensive child care, simultaneous part- or full-time employment, and unreliable transportation which may act as roadblocks on their pathway to post-secondary education. However, research has shown that robust support services such as high quality financial advising, counseling, and strong academic support have been effective in improving rates of persistence and success among low-income students.

The answers to the issues raised in the study released by the Campaign for College Opportunity lie not primarily at the college and university level but in the communities the students and their parents come from. What needs to be addressed is not mandating levels of participation at the various levels(CCC, CSU and UC) but tackling the more politically sensitive and harder questions about the quality of education being provided prior to college and providing access to families at all levels of society with sound academic and financial counseling planning/advice.

By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity. Jeffery Cassity writes weekly for the Being Latino! website and regularly for the Sacramento Press website. His articles have also appeared previously in the El Conquistador newspaper(Milwaukee, Wisconsin), the Kenosha(WI) News and the Sacramento(CA) News & Review. Jeff also has written a number of unproduced(so far) feature movie and TV pilots which he hopes to turn into a late in life career in Hollywood, Mexico City, Beijing and/or Dublin. Follow him on Twitter @jcassity05. Also read his blog containing all his written articles I am Puddin’.


One comment

  1. I’m sharing this in a couple of groups Jeff. Excellent piece. There’s one more thing the study isn’t reporting that I KNOW is missing: access to highly educated MENTORS, Latinos or otherwise, who have taken the pathway of higher education and won! Access to “academic and financial counseling planning/advice” will mean nothing to people if they know ZERO people who have EVER graduated from college and exceeded expectations. The need for concrete examples of educated successful people, to build the LONG-TERM view and persevere through it all, is paramount and missing.

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