Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The State of Latino Education: A War against Ignorance

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

The State of Latino Education: A War against Ignorance

Article excerpt

The population of Latinos in the United States has skyrocketed to approximately 40 million, and they've begun to move into virtually every state in the union, particularly into the Midwest, Northwest and Southeast. Yet, with time exception of many schools in time Southwest, many schools from K-12 to the college level are not prepared to handle this influx of new students, many of whom are Spanish-speaking.

"At the University of Iowa, there's not a deep understanding of Latinos," says Adele Lozano, multicultural coordinator at the University of Iowa. Similar to other universities, particularly in the Midwest, she says, the university recruits people of color, but then doesn't know what to do with them, resulting in poor retention rates. The same is true of faculty and staff, she adds.

And while people of Mexican descent still make up the vast majority of Latinos in the United States (about two-thirds), there has been a great increase in the number of Central Americans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and South Americans. What this has meant and means is that ethnic/Chicano/Latino studies has had to accommodate these expanding populations ... or still needs to.

Resources continue to shrink--even with the growing Latino population. Cutbacks are rampant while the legitimacy of students of color on campuses continues to be challenged. Some even say that while the Black and Brown populations continue to grow, a resegregation is beginning to occur on college campuses nationwide due to right-wing policies--proof that the march of history is not always forward.

The era being examined, 1984-2004, is decidedly different from when I attended UCLA a generation before--a time when people of color fought, marched, rallied and picketed together to break down the walls of segregation and to create and defend ethnic studies. The past 20 years can be characterized by retrenchment and cutbacks and the ever predictable fight over crumbs that pits people of color against each other during a time of greatly diminishing resources. One can argue that retrenchment actually began in earnest with Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978. And one could also argue that resources have not actually diminished. What has diminished is the societal commitment to education for all.

THE PROMISE OF PARITY

A generation ago, a 1982 Texas decision, Plyler v. Doe, permitted undocumented K-12 students to pay in-state tuition, as opposed to the higher tuition charged to out-of state residents or foreigners. The precedent-setting 1985 Leticia A decision permitted undocumented students to attend colleges in California. Both of these decisions were in recognition that the legal status of these students was not of their own doing and that they, most who had come to the United States as children, were entitled to an education just like their American-born classmates. For a while, other states followed this lead, but within a few short years, this trend came to a halt. Instead, over the past 20 years, the move toward equality for these students has been in an apartheid-like direction, subjecting them and remanding them into separate legal categories, depriving them of an excellent education.

Nationwide, undocumented students are fighting for the right to not only enroll at colleges and universities, but to do so as state residents.

Daniela Conde, a UCLA student, recently noted, "Each year, some 65,000 high school students nationwide graduate at the top of their class and are then denied, due to their legal status, the right to continue their higher education."

Conde, a sophomore, is a member of the Immigrant Rights Coalition that has come together with the DREAM TEAM Coalition in Los Angeles to push for passing of the DREAM Act. "The DREAM Act," she says, "is just one step in the movement for immigrant fights for students." The act would adjust the status of undocumented students and allow them to apply for work-study and loans to finance their college education. …

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