‘Juntos’ Programs Target Teens and Parents

A growing number of school districts and universities are working together to push more Latino youth to pursue a college education.

At the same time, school districts also are seeking to boost Latino parent involvement.

A program called Juntos, which means “together” in Spanish, tackles both goals. The program originated at North Carolina State University and now is being replicated at middle and high schools in several states. It is intended for students in the eighth- through twelfth-grades.

As part of the program, Latino teens and their parents attend a six-week-long series of workshops that tackle topics including goal-setting, the college admissions process and seeking financial aid for college.

The Tulsa World newspaper reports that Oklahoma State University and the Tulsa Public Schools are now partnering to implement the program.

“Many Latino parents don’t know how to navigate the American education system and because of where they come from, these parents see the school as the one in power,” said Antonio Marín, a grant coordinator at Oklahoma State. “They need to know they can come to the school to talk to the principal and the teacher and the counselor, and that college is an option for their kids.”

Oregon State University is also leading a Juntos program for students in Madras, Oregon. It is part of the university’s “Open Campus” initiative, which aims to work with K-12 schools, colleges and local government to create higher education opportunities.

Open Campus coordinator Jennifer Oppenlander told KTVZ News that involving parents and their children in the activities makes the program distinctive.

“By attending Juntos together, the experience gives families a comfort level and makes them feel as if they have a support group,” she said.

Are colleges and school districts in your community partnering to work together on similar programs? If not, what is the state of relations between K12 and higher education institutions in your community?

Related Links:

“Juntos Initiative Helps Tulsa Latino Students Succeed,” Tulsa World.

“OSU Program Preps Madras Latinos for College,” KTVZ.com.

“Juntos Summit Unites Latino Students in Quest for Higher Education and Rewarding Careers,” North Carolina State University News Center.

– The Juntos Program

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Latino Studies Programs Grow on College Campuses

Latino Studies programs are popping up in unexpected places.

Just this fall, Vanderbilt University announced the creation of a Latino and Latina Studies program. This occurred even though only about 8 percent of Vanderbilt students are Latino.

Community colleges are also considering such programs.

“In the last couple of years, there have been a number of community colleges asking for help in setting up programs,” Lourdes Torres, professor of Latin American and Latino studies at DePaul University, told Fox News Latino. “It’s not just four-year colleges, it’s two-year programs reaching out asking for help.”

Such programs can sometimes be a long time coming.

When I was an undergraduate student at Northwestern in 2000, some Hispanic students organized a protest calling on the university to create a Latino Studies program. It took nine years for the program to become reality.

Time likely will determine the direction that these programs will take.

Some programs are struggling. In March, KPBS — San Diego Public Radio — reported that the Chicano Studies program at San Diego State University in California was falling short of its course enrollment goals. That occurred despite the fact that the university is defined as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

The KPBS article noted that the “Chicano” label is no longer as popular with Mexican American students, and can have a negative connotation that may impact enrollment. Many Chicano Studies programs were born out of protests by activists in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Identifying as Chicano symbolized solidarity with a proud, sometimes even militant, struggle against second-class status — a struggle by Mexican-Americans to be recognized by politicians, employers, and by academia,” the article noted.

However, the article noted that in contrast, the nearby San Diego City College has more demand than space for its Chicano Studies courses.

So is it that important to replace Chicano with Latino or Hispanic? And what sorts of careers are students who earn degrees in these majors pursuing?

Related Links:

“Latino Studies Programs Taking Off In Colleges Across the Country,” Fox News Latino.
“New Vanderbilt Latino and Latina Studies Program Launched,” Vanderbilt University.
“Declining Interest in ‘Chicano Studies’ Reflects a Latino Identity Shift,” KPBS.

Report Emphasizes Importance of Latino College Completion in California

Latinos in California have “unacceptably low rates” of college completion that must improve in order for the state to have a strong future, a new report says.

The report, “The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California,” was conducted by the nonprofit group The Campaign for College Opportunity.

The most stark fact illustrating the challenge is that in 2011, only about 11 percent of Latino adults ages 25 or older held a bachelor’s degree in the state, compared with 39 percent of white adults.

On the positive side, Diverse Issues in Higher Education reported that Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the campaign, noted that “surveys continue to confirm that Latinos have very high aspirations. Latino parents are very supportive of their children getting a college education. In fact, 92 percent of them believe that a college education is very important.”

While more Latinos are graduating high school, that isn’t necessarily leading them to graduate from college.

While many Latinos feel attending college is important, the study points out several factors that hinder their chance of finishing. Among those potential barriers, Latinos are less likely to enroll in a four-year university, less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to enroll full-time, or to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The group makes a number of recommendations for improving outcomes for Latino students. The list includes creating a statewide plan for higher education, investing in student services, increasing funding for higher education, strengthening the state’s financial aid program, and improving the relationship between K12 and higher education entities.

The report also suggests that the state create benchmarks based on Latino enrollment and publicize progress made toward those goals.

According to the study, about 94 percent of California’s Latinos under the age of 18 were born in the United States. When Latinos attend college, they are more likely to attend community colleges. According to state data, of the state’s freshman Latino students in fall 2012, there were 118,727 enrolled in community colleges, 23,046 enrolled in the California State University system, and 8,747 in the University of California system.

Many Latino students who enroll in community colleges must take remedial courses in order to be college-ready, and studies show those students are less likely to finish college. According to California state data, only about four in 10 Latino students complete community colleges in six years. Additionally, of those Latinos who complete community college and enroll in the California State University system only about 63 percent earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.

Meanwhile, well-prepared Latino students attending the UC system fare better: almost 74 percent graduate within six years, and 46 percent in four years. Additionally, almost 82 percent of Latino community college transfers to the UC system graduate in four years.

Related Links:

– “The State of Latinos in Higher Education in California,” The Campaign for College Opportunity.

“California’s Low Latino College Completion Rate Imperils State’s Future,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

“For Economy’s Sake, Latinos Need College Push,” San Diego Union Tribune.

Spanish For Native Speakers College Classes Increase

Latinos raised in Spanish-speaking homes but not formally schooled in Spanish are often caught in a bind when they want to strengthen their language schools in college.

Spanish classes for non-native speakers may not be the best fit, so programs that address the needs of “heritage” speakers are increasingly popping up. As the Latino student population ages, Spanish for Spanish speakers classes could grow in popularity throughout the country.

The Associated Press reports on the trend, noting that it is still developing. Such students may have strong conversation skills, but experience challenges with reading and writing in Spanish, for example.

Harvard and the University of Miami are two examples of institutions that have special classes for such “heritage” speakers.

The AP article describes one student, Dorothy Villarreal, who realized the gaps in her Spanish when she studied abroad in Mexico.

“We were talking about the presidential election, and there was so much I wanted to explain,” Villarreal told the AP. “We’d end up playing a guessing game where I’d speak in English, and my friends, they’d speak back in Spanish to guess what I was saying.”

She is now enrolled in the Harvard heritage language class.

Additionally, the National Heritage Language Resource Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, tracks research on such programs and works on developing effective ways to teach heritage learners. The U.S. Department of Education funds the center. The center could be a possible resource for reporters.

There already are signs of the future demand for such courses. Growing numbers of school districts are using AP Spanish and Language classes with native Spanish-speaking students beginning as early as middle school.

The number of Spanish speakers residing within the United States isn’t dropping any time soon. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Spanish is the most common language other than in English spoken in homes, even among people who are not Hispanic.

Pew said that according to 2011 American Community Survey Census figures, about 37.6 million people ages five and older speak Spanish in the home.

Related Links:

– “Heritage language programs on the rise,” Associated Press.

– National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA.
– “Speaking Spanish Declining Among Latinos in the U.S.” CNN.


– “Spanish is the Most Spoken non-English Language in U.S. Homes, Even Among non-Hispanics,” Pew Research Center.

Utah College Leaders Support Immigration Reform

Eight presidents of Utah colleges and universities are calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.

The signers of the new letter include the presidents of the University of Utah, Utah State University, and Utah Valley University.

Immigration reform has largely faded from the headlines, but the presidents demonstrate that some groups are pushing to bring it to the forefront again.

They support making it easier for foreign students to obtain visas to study in science and engineering fields.

They also express support for the DREAM Act, writing that it would generate economic activity in Utah.

“Many of our future bright students came to this country as children and have been unable to take advantage of an American education and contribute to our economy because of their status,” the presidents write.

A study by the Brookings Institution found that 5,332 people from Utah applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program between August 15, 2012, and March 22, 2013. Deferred action is being awarded to some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The presidents conclude their letter by noting, “Meanwhile, too many people are living in the shadows unable to join our work force, gain an education, and contribute to the economy they live in while we face real worker shortages and slow economic growth.”

Related Links:

– “Utah College and University Presidents call for Immigration Reform,” Deseret News.


– Utah University Presidents’ Immigration Letter


– “Immigration Facts: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),” Brookings Institution.

Latino College Enrollment Surges as Overall Enrollment Falls

Higher numbers of Latinos are enrolling in college than ever before — even as overall college enrollment in the United States is falling.

The findings were released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday. The number of Hispanics enrolled in college increased to 3.4 million in 2012, an increase of 15 percent over the previous year, Reuters reported. Hispanic students now make up 17 percent of college students.

Meanwhile, overall college enrollment fell by about 2.3 percent, to 19.9 million. Much of the decline came from older students.

The Pew Research Center details other recent positive news contained in the report. The Hispanic high school dropout rate is falling. In 2012, about 15 percent of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 had not completed high school. The percentage in 2000 was significantly higher, at 32 percent.

“Overall, the Hispanic dropout rate is falling more quickly than any other racial or ethnic group, resulting in a closing of the gap between Hispanics and blacks, white non-Hispanics and Asians,” Pew noted.

The Census Bureau report found that 49 percent of Hispanic high school graduates ages 18 to 24 are enrolled in college, compared with 47 percent of whites. Immigrant students and children of immigrants made up about 32 percent of college students.

More students are in the pipeline. About 24 percent of elementary school students in the U.S. are Hispanic.

The news is encouraging, but there still is a long way to go to close the education gap, demonstrated by another recent report by Pew focusing on the low college attainment rates of Latinos. The college attainment levels vary widely depending on which state you reside in.

An analysis of Census data by the Pew Research Center provides a state-by-state breakdown on the bachelor’s degree attainment rates of Latinos ages 25 and older in 2011. The national average for all Hispanics was 13.4 percent.

On the high end of the list was the District of Columbia (36.2 percent). The low end was Nevada (8.1 percent). Many of the most heavily Hispanic states fall under the national average. They include California (10.7 percent) and Texas (12.0 percent). Florida was an exception (20.4 percent).

The source of data was the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey data. It’s important to note that these number include immigrants with low levels of education from their home countries.

As you may recall, last May Pew released a study showing that a higher percentage of Hispanic high school graduates in the Class of 2012 (69 percent) enrolled in college than white graduates (67 percent).

Related Links:

– “After a Recent Upswing, College Enrollment Declines, Census Bureau Reports,” United States Census Bureau.

– “Hispanic Enrollment in U.S. Colleges up 15 Percent,” Reuters.

– “Among Recent High School Grads, Hispanic College Enrollment Rate Surpasses that of Whites,” Pew Research Center.

– “D.C., Virginia and Maryland Have the Highest Shares of College-Educated Latinos,” Pew Research Center.

– “Hispanic High School Graduates Pass Whites in Rate of College Enrollment,” Pew Research Center.

Latino College Students Lag in Enrollment at Selective Colleges

While Latinos are making great gains in college enrollment, a new study finds that they are largely shut out of the most selective institutions.

The new report, “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege,” was released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. It calls the story of minority college access a “good news – bad news” story.

“We found, as others have before us, that, in fact, that while more and more minorities are going on to college, that the system itself was becoming even more unequal,” the center’s director, Anthony Carnevale, told NPR. “That is, we were getting more and more access, and access was bringing more and more inequality, and the inequality mattered.”

The report examined 4,400 higher education institutions based on enrollment by race and selectivity. They identified 468 four-year selective colleges and universities, and found that since 1995, about 82 percent of newly enrolled white students had gone to those schools. Meanwhile, about 72 percent of Hispanic students and 68 percent of black students enrolled in open-access community colleges and two-year institutions.

According to the report, black and Hispanic students make up about 36 percent of students at the open-access schools and only 14 percent of students at the most selective four-year colleges. Meanwhile, they make up about one-third of the college-aged population.

Carnevale said that while many minority students may not be prepared for a highly competitive university, many others are prepared but don’t end up going.

The report says that black and Hispanic “A” students are more likely to go to community colleges (30 percent) than white “A” students (22 percent).

Now one could argue that many successful people attend schools that are open enrollment. But the report also says that attending more selective schools offers higher future earnings in later careers and higher rates of graduate school enrollment, among other benefits. According to the research, graduates of the most selective schools early $67,000 on average 10 years after graduation, compared with $49,000 for graduates of two- and four-year open access colleges.

In the NPR interview, Carnevale acknowledged that incorporating “white racial privilege” into the title of the study was a tough decision and he added that “it took me a while to be able to write that title down.” He said some reaction has been quite negative because people are “weary of struggling with race.”

If you are reporting on a successful student, it’s worth delving into what colleges they are considering. Are they aiming high enough? Who is advising them on applications? If they are not applying to competitive institutions, why?

Related Links:

– “Study: Black and Latino Students Missing Out on Selective Colleges,” Marketplace.

– “Separate and Unequal: Racial Divides in Higher Ed,” NPR.

– “Separate & Unequal,” Georgetown Public Policy Institute.

Latino College Enrollment and Graduation Rates Improving

A new brief by The Education Trust celebrates the spike in college enrollment by Latino students, but calls attention to the need to improve six-year graduation rates.

Between 2009 and 2011, Latino undergraduate enrollment at four-year colleges and universities increased by about 22 percent — from 949,304 students to 1,158,268. Black student enrollment increased by 8.5 percent to 1,158,268 and white enrollment increased by 2.7 percent to 6,090,212.

Between 2009 and 2011, the six-year graduation rate for Latino students improved to 51 percent, growing by 4.7 percent. The graduation rate for black students was 39.9 percent and for white students was 62.1 percent.

Using data form the U.S. Department of Education, The Education Trust has created an online database of data called College Results Online. The online tool allows users to review college-specific data and to compare colleges to their peer group of similar institutions.

The group has identified those colleges that are performing best and worst with minority students. For  example, at Stony Brook University Hispanic students are graduating at higher rates than white students. The six-year rate for Latinos is now about 66.5 percent.

The brief highlights Michigan State University for not doing well with Latino students. Hispanic students are graduating at a six-year rate of 61.5 percent, compared to 80.9 percent for white students.

The brief also said that selective admissions do not necessarily result in student success.

Related Links:

– “Intentionally Successful: Improving Minority Student College Graduation Rates,” The Education Trust. 

– College Results Online

Study: NYC Latino Male Students Lag in College Readiness

First, the good news: High school graduation rates are improving for Latino and black male students in New York City. The bad news? Many of those new graduates are not ready for college coursework.

Those are the key findings of a new report by the Research Alliance for New York City,  based at New York University.  The report, “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness Among Black and Latino Males in New York City”, shows that getting minority students to the high school finish line isn’t enough. Schools must look beyond graduation, and also focus on whether they are preparing young men for future college success.

Between 2002 and 2010, the graduation rate for Latino males in New York City improved from 45 percent to 59 percent. For black males, the rate improved from 45 to 57 percent. However, the study  found that just 11 percent of Latino males and 9 percent of black males are ready for college.

Male minority students are falling behind females. To address the achievement gap, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the “Young Men’s Initiative” two years ago. The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) was also created to assist 40 schools with improving outcomes for male students.

Adriana Villavicencio, the study’s co-author, told Diverse Issues in Higher Education that the study is meant to support and evaluate the city’s efforts. “ESI is really focused on college and career readiness of black and Latino males,” she told the publication. “And we thought it would be important to ask what does that look like in New York City?”

The report points to the challenges facing young minority male students. Those issues include the overrepresentation of black and Latino boys in special education courses, high suspension rates, and limited access to advanced courses. The report recommends that the ESI program focus its resources on the ninth grade first, before expanding to the upper grades. It also establishes goals such as increasing the number of males taking honors courses, and offering mentoring and freshmen seminars to boys.

For the purposes of the report, college readiness is defined by the New York State Education Department’s “Aspirational Performance Measure.” Readiness is defined as equivalent to a Regents diploma, and a score of 80 or higher on the Regents math exam and 75 or higher on the English exam.

Related Links:

– “Study Calls Attention to NYC Effort on Black and Latino Male College Readiness,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

– “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness,” NYU Steinhardt.

– Young Men’s Initiative. 

– Expanded Success Initiative (ESI)

Scholars Emphasize Importance of Affirmative Action Programs

A group of university professors have released a statement through The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, arguing that the benefits of affirmative action are supported by sound research, despite the politically divisive nature of the debate over its usage.

Their goal is to both justify the usage of such diversity policies and help universities craft policies that are legally sound.

The statement makes a number of points, supported with cited studies.  It comes in the wake of the Fisher v. University of Texas U.S. Supreme Court decision, which sent the affirmative action case back to lower courts. Although it was not a decisive statement, researchers said the court did recognize that the goal of diversity in higher education is a worthy one.

“The Court also emphasized that use of race, if challenged, requires a clear judicial finding that the campus has shown that it could not find a workable and feasible non-racial strategy that would produce the desired level of diversity at tolerable administrative expense,” the statement says.

The professors first lay out the case for the benefits of diversity in a higher education setting, including reductions in prejudice and greater civic engagement. Diversity also can cutback on stereotyping, tokenism and other discrimination on campus.

The study notes that the risk for such discrimination has been highest in fields with few minorities, such as science, technology, engineering and math majors (STEM).

The researchers argue against any assertions that minority students admitted under affirmative action programs are stigmatized, and say the opposite is true. The argue against the idea that such minorities would do better academically at less elite schools. They say students who initially have low test scores may be motivated by the challenge of attending an elite university.

“The claim that minority students suffer academic harms when their admissions credentials do not “match” their institutions finds limited support in the scientific literature,” the statement says. “Research on undergraduates as well as on professional schools shows that minority students attain higher grades and have higher graduation rates when attending more selective institutions.”

The researchers argue that polices such as considering low income status rather than race and targeted recruitment of minorities are not as effective as affirmative action.

The signers of the statement include professors from Stanford University, University of Illinois, Vanderbilt University, University of Houston, and the University of Michigan.

While the statement strongly pushes affirmative action as a solution, other higher education institutions are pursuing other avenues of increasing diversity. Some universities believe that reaching out to minority students in middle and high school could increase diversity. A recent article in The New York Times described how the University of California-Irving spends more than $7 million annually on outreach. California schools have turned to such strategies since affirmative action was banned there.
“California’s public universities, and some of their counterparts around the country, have embedded themselves deeply in disadvantaged communities, working with schools, students and parents to identify promising teenagers and get more of them into college,” the article says. “It is not enough, university administrators say, to change the way they select students; they must also change the students themselves, and begin to do so long before the time arrives to fill out applications.”

Related Links:

– “The Research Basis for Affirmative Action: a Statement by Leading Researchers,” The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

– “Justice Step Up Scrutiny of Race in College Entry,” The New York Times. 

– Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court decision text.

– “In California, Push for Diversity Starts Earlier,” The New York Times.

– The Civil Rights Project