Families & Communities

Access to Higher Education

Pláticas en Acción
Access to Higher Education

Several barriers stand in the way of members of the Latino community having access to higher education. There is an enormous opportunity for educators, parents and communities to target Latino success in education as a high-priority concern from pre-school through college.

What is the Issue
The current U.S. Latino population is larger than the entire population of Canada and equal to the combined population of 22 U.S. states. One-third of Latinos are under age 18, and half are under age 26. This is an enormous group, and this country cannot afford to lose the enormous intellectual, economic, spiritual and human resource this population represents.

Policies and procedures are needed to make it easier for Latino students to gain access to institutions of higher learning. Problems include inadequate teacher preparation and development, little shared accountability, lack of outreach within communities, poor retention strategies, lack of diversity, meager student financial aid, deficiency of early assessment and the nonexistence of a clear path to higher education.

What Could be Done
Institutions should determine the practices and policies that either facilitate or impede access to higher education for Latino students and take appropriate action by building on those that help and replacing those that hinder Latino enrollment.

Universities should call on the assets of the communities they serve to enrich and expand teacher preparation and include parents in the learning process. Accountability could be shared in partnerships that include schools, universities, community colleges and families.

Outreach efforts could include placing new facilities in or near the students to be served and also having programs that encourage enrollment of part-time as well as full-time students. Opportunities could be provided for citizens to take part in working with prospective students of all ages to introduce them to the prospects of higher education.

In order to attract and retain students, campuses could provide ongoing academic, financial and social support for students. To encourage diversity, these institutions could make a special effort to attract a diverse faculty, staff and student body. They can organize campaigns to offer information and assistance to parents and students regarding availability of student financial aid.

Comprehensive assessments must be available to all students to assess key areas where the students may need extra help, such as English, writing skills, math and the use of technology to help prepare for college.

What You Can Do
Different higher education institutions offer some of the programs listed above, and others do not. You should access the information available at your local public library or speak with the counselors at your child’s school to learn what programs are needed at the institutions in your community. Volunteer to be on committees at a higher learning location near you, and carry information back to groups in your area. Encourage your neighbors to get involved, too. Encourage all youngsters to plan to enroll and succeed in college.

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is a vanguard leadership development and research team working with people to create self-renewing schools that value and empower all children, families and communities. IDRA is an independent, private non-profit organization directed by María Robledo Montecel, Ph.D. IDRA, 5835 Callaghan Road, Suite 350, San Antonio, Texas 78228-1190; 210444-1710; contact@idra.org; www.idra.org. © 2003 by IDRA. • Parent Information Resource Center at IDRA •