Evaluating Barriers to and Opportunities for Higher Education in the Hispanic Community

Evaluating Barriers to and Opportunities for Higher Education in the Hispanic Community

Lisa Perelli (Delaware State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2177-9.ch008
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Although the Hispanic population in the United States is growing faster than any other ethnic group, college graduation rates, especially above the associates degree level, remain low, too low for the United States to remain academically and economically competitive in the years to come. Hispanics, on the whole, remain poorer and less educated than other ethnic groups, which could have significant economic impact on the United States, if left un-remediated, as their numbers continue to rise. Some of the questions and issues to be addressed in considering this gap in educating this population include cultural or financial barriers to attending college, bias in K-12 education and college recruitment strategies, retention and graduation issues specific to Hispanics, and high school and community college preparation of immigrant and other Hispanic students for transferring to four-year institutions.
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Georgetown, Delaware which serves as the county seat in Sussex, represents a microcosm of the national situation, where nearly half of its geographic population identifies as Hispanic (Veness, 2013), yet only 5% of the full-time degree-seeking students attending the local community college are Hispanic (http://edexcelencia.org).

Through articulation agreements, Delaware State University is one institution that provides many opportunities for students who complete an associates’ degree at Delaware Technical Community College to continue on to a baccalaureate degree. In Georgetown, the opportunity specifically exists for students interested in the Bachelor of Social Work program to complete their degree on the same campus. Yet, in the past three years, although Page (2013) notes that a high number of Hispanic students select degrees in the social sciences, no students who identify as Hispanic or Latino/a have connected to this four-year program.

While the numbers are disheartening, the opportunity for colleges and universities to revise and extend recruitment efforts that target Hispanics exists, and could create a win-win scenario for both the population, which would benefit from better occupational opportunities, and the university, which would gain minority students at a time when enrollment is trending down for white students (Pratt, 2014). In the same article, Irene Burgess, vice president for academic programs at the Appalachian College Association, described the situation as “one of those wonderful situations where you can do the right thing morally as well as financially” (par. 7), reaching out to a new population of students to keep colleges thriving. The ACA is providing grants to local institutions to help them in this new initiative.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Nontraditional Students: Students meeting at least three of the attributes of nontraditional students, as defined by the 2005 NCES study, who are returning to higher education after a gap in their studies. For the purpose of this chapter we are referring to those over 24, ethnicity such as Hispanic, socio-economic status, and family obligations.

Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs): Higher education institutions dedicated to primarily serving the Hispanic/Latino population.

Intrinsic Motivation: Internal factors contributing to decision-making and the pursuit of a goal.

Articulation Agreements: Curriculum contracts that allow community colleges and four-year institutions to partner for degree completion.

Higher Education: Post-secondary education.

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