The advocacy group Excelencia in Education has released a new report focused on the importance of taking the Latino college student experience into consideration if and when the federal financial aid system in the United States is redesigned.
“Using a Latino Lens to Reimagine Aid Design and Delivery” was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While Latinos certainly should not be viewed as a monolithic group, Excelencia finds that certain scenarios are more common among Hispanic students.
For example, they are more likely to attend community colleges, take courses part-time while working, study online and at multiple colleges, live off campus with family and take more than four years to complete their degree.
“Using the profile of America’s young and growing Latino population as the baseline, rather than the footnote, to define the post-traditional student, we are providing a fresh perspective on financial aid policy for all students,” said Deborah Santiago, Excelencia’s vice president for policy and research, in a news release.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on some of the more significant recommendations in the paper. One controversial example is recommending that students be required to complete a Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) form when they apply to college. The publication said Santiago argued in favor of such a stance because too many Latino students are not receiving grants or loans because they don’t complete their forms.
In addition, the white paper pushes for increased investment in college preparation and work study programs, making Pell grants an entitlement that guarantees support to low-income students, and revising the expected family contribution formula and what “sufficient” funds are.
The Chronicle also points out that the government programs giving out aid (Perkins loans, supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work Study) benefit colleges that joined back in the 1970s when the programs were launched–large public universities and private colleges in the North.
But Santiago points out that Latinos are flooding colleges in the Southwest United States, which need more aid.
The organization also shared four student profiles in their report, to humanize the issue. As reporters, profiling students in similar situations would be a way to make this story resonate more with readers.
For example, Excelencia cites one example of a 24-year-old Mexican-American woman named Yuridia. She works full-time, holds a GED and has children. She applied to only one college, because it was close to her home. She was not well-informed about financial aid, so she did not apply during her first year.
Clearly, many students face more than one challenge to completing their degrees.
Looking for these stories of such students can be illuminating.