One of President Obama's goals is having the "highest degree attainment rate in the world by 2020" (Kolowich, par 3). If this is to happen, the United States must seriously consider how it is going to booster Latino graduation rates, both at the secondary level and in higher education. Are Latinos facing obstacles that other demographics do not experience? Why is the achievement gap so entrenched when it comes to Latinos? Are we so busy ensuring Latino kids get into college that we haven't the slightest clue how to teach them the self determination and academic discipline that is going to keep them engaged and willing to play the game and graduate?
If you think this is a problem that doesn't have to be addressed, I can guarantee you that it is going to get tremendously worse. According to Excelencia in Education, "Between 2005 and 2022, the number of Hispanic public high school graduates in the United States is projected to increase by 88 percent, while the number of white school graduates is expected to decline by 15 percent." This is not a matter anymore of class versus ideology, of bitter inequalities that plague the system for the endemically destitute. The bottom line is that with a quarter less Anglos receiving degrees and an almost 90 percent increase in Latino high school graduation rates, to remain technologically equal and retain supremacy over nations on the up and up, the United States is going to have to rely, more and more, on Latinos for it's skilled as well as manual labor.
To remain competitive in the world, the U.S. and specifically the administrators of the Obama legacy must find ways of engaging with the Latinos that drop out after the first year, or more likely, have to leave school because they can't afford to be a student. One often forgets that to be a "student" takes a lot of money, not because students spend ostentatiously but because they apportion nothing to the market by studying Moliere or re-reading a Hemingway with a Marxist lens or translating one of Pessoa's alter ego nom de plumes. The simple fact is that only the middle class can really afford to dawdle on campus in track pants and skarf on falafel or vending machine trophies like Twizzlers and Sunkist.
One of the biggest problems that Latinos students face is that they have to work while they go to school; the majority of Latino students are forced to either take the mantle of the wage-earner or watch their families suffer as their earning power is diminished. For example, "At Northeastern Illinois, Green and Thill have found that Hispanic students are more likely than others to be working full-time jobs and supporting families" (Kolowich, par. 6). In Sam Petula's article in Inside Higher Ed, he mentions the report conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities that "recommends that higher education institutions search for ways to be more flexible in accomodating working students. Latino undergraduates had the highest average work-study aid award of any racial or ethnic group in 2007-8" (2011, par. 8). Another accommodation that schools and especially personnel that service Latinos are going to have to make is patience. Many of the Latino students have had to serve as translators of important school documents, and in essence, solo navigators.
People that service Latino students are going to have to realize that many Latino students would rather figure it out than ask for help, and that might include the schema that will allow them to navigate the brick and mortar library. Maybe the best thing we can do is predict the aspects that require instruction and place landmarks along the way so that we assure ourselves that these students are getting the academic attention they require while allowing them to retain some of the wonder and meddle involved in inquiry and discovery learning.
A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.