Sunday, August 02, 2009

Latinos face economic, educational inequities

This is an important quick read as it suggests that the gap has grown worse for Latinos nationally, but Texas is highlighted here. "Among those 25 years old and older, only 13.4 percent of Latinos have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 30.6 percent of non-Latino whites."


by Bobby Longoria

Daily Texan Staff
Thursday, July 30, 2009

In a lecture at Austin Community College on Wednesday, a California civil rights researcher argued that Latinos are facing economic and educational disparities.

Patricia Gándara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California-Los Angeles, conducts research focusing on educational equity and access for low-income and ethnic minority students, language policy and the education of Latino youth.

Based on her research, Gándara, who is also a professor of education at UCLA, says she has found there is a stagnation of progress for Latinos in higher education.

“This has noticeable implications to Texas,” Gándara said. “It has noticeable implications for the United States generally.”
According to research she gathered from the National Center for Higher Education and Public Policy, 48 percent of the Latino workforce has less than a high school diploma, whereas the rate for the white population is 9 percent. This will result in a 5 percent decline in per capita income for the entire Texas population between 2000 and 2020, Gándara said.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda’s 2008 Hispanic Policy Agenda report states that Hispanics have the lowest graduation rate as well as the highest dropout rate of any minority group.

Chris Alvarado, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board director of outreach, said dropout rates and higher education participation are the two biggest issues concerning the education of Latinos. Alvarado said this is a result of educational policy that fails to spread awareness among a culture that is typically not college-bound.

“If a student attempts to go to college and doesn’t find the support system there, they feel out of place,” Alvarado said. “That information is then the information that is shared. So it becomes a negative piece that, ‘College isn’t for us. I couldn’t do it, so it isn’t for us,’ instead of recognizing the accomplishments of the students that do make it.”
Alvarado said students need to know certain policies exist and they are given the same chances to participate. He also said the board has been working on legislation that promotes a public awareness campaign, financial aid assistance and a mentor program.

The report stated that Hispanics have the lowest college matriculation and college graduation rates of any major population group. Among those 25 years old and older, only 13.4 percent of Latinos have bachelor’s degrees, compared to 30.6 percent of non-Latino whites.

According to the report, during the 2004-2005 academic year, the average amount of financial aid Hispanic full-time undergraduate students received was $4,622 whereas, white students received $4,837 and African-American students received $4,908, on average.

Julian Vasquez Heilig, assistant UT education professor, is the co-director of The University of Texas Center for Collaborative Educational Research and Policy. The policy group has found in recent years that the Latino population in Texas is almost 36 percent of the state population and that representation of Latinos relative to the state population has doubled.

“The disparity between representation at UT and the larger population is more than 20 percent,” Vasquez Heilig said. “You would think Latinos would be better represented in today’s University, but they are actually less represented.”

He said this may be due to the increasing number of exit exams such as the TAKS test, in which only 30 percent of Latino students passed two of the four topics. Among English language learners only 17 percent passed two of the four topics.
A precursor to students failing may be the distribution of “emergency teachers,” which are quickly certified, but have no experience in classrooms, he said.

“If you go to wealthy suburban high schools, you will not see large numbers of emergency certified teachers,” Vasquez Heilig said. “If you go to urban schools where Latinos and African-Americans are attending, you will see large numbers of emergency certified teachers. They are unfairly distributed, yet we expect the same output. We expect the same test scores and attendance rate.”

Gándara said educational disparities may be attributed to living conditions.

“We have created a situation here in which the context in which these young children are growing up is a third-world country,” Gándara said. “There children are growing up in poverty, they have no health insurance and are incredibly segregated.”
She said Texas ranks 42 in the nation with respect to investment in K-12 education — among some of the poorest states in the nation — yet Texas itself is not poor.

She said closing the gaps in college attendance is a systemic problem that can not be solved with a 10 percent solution.
“In other words, take the last 10 percent of their education and put a Band-Aid on it and hope that you are going to change the trajectory of kids’ lives,” Gándara said. “It’s not going to happen. Latino students require more investment.”

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