Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Quiet Crisis

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Quiet Crisis

Article excerpt

Conference highlights higher education disparities between Latino men and women


The higher college enrollment and graduation rates of women versus men has long been considered a crisis in the Black community. But the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute recently addressed a similar, less well-documented, educational disparity within the Latino community.

"The Unacknowledged Crisis: Latino Males and Higher Education," a daylong conference held in October, drew 560 attendees, including scholars and public officials. The conference was aimed at exploring reasons behind the lack of college degrees among Latino men and identifying ways to combat the trend.

"Most of the research is based solely on race, it was our goal to bring out several hundred people to deal with the gender inequality of Latinos in higher education," says Dr. Harry P. Pachon, president of the institute and professor of public policy at the University of Southern California.

Approximately 20 percent more Hispanic women go to college than men, leading almost inevitably to more female graduates. Pachon says the disparity can be attributed to factors beyond culture. For example, 80 percent to 90 percent of elementary and secondary school teachers are female, and consequently serve as role models for Hispanic girls. Pachon also notes that many Hispanic students and their families do not understand the process of getting into or paying for college.

"When we found out that many parents didn't know the first tool on how to finance a college education, Sallic Mae started a 90-city bus tour, going to barrios, promoting that there are loans, scholarships and grants available," Pachon says. The effort by the Sallie Mae Foundation was prompted by the institute's 2002 report "College Knowledge: What Latino Parents Need to Know and Why They Don't Know It."


Young Hispanic and African-American men are often lured into lower-paying job fields by the promise of an immediate, steady income, many of which don't hold the same interest for young women, Pachon says.

"Latino males have more employment opportunities with a high school [diploma], or after they are 17 years old, in body shops or manual labor that are not open to females, so the females see the value of a college education," Pachon says. "But it's really a shame because the difference between a college graduate and a non-college graduate is a million dollars over a lifetime. So it is a million-dollar decision for the individual."

Dr. Aida Hurtado, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, struck a similar note in her conference presentation, "The Universal Importance of Gender Equity."

"Too often, there is a similar pattern. Young women overcome poverty to excel at school, while their brothers drop out, find poorly paying jobs and sometimes get into trouble with the law," Hurtado said.

To illustrate her point, Hurtado told the story of a Latino family from Santa Cruz. The daughter, one of Hurtado's students, completed a bachelor's degree and later earned a master's degree in counseling. While the young woman was advancing professionally, her brother was sinking into the gang culture in their neighborhood. He was eventually killed in a gang-related shooting.

According to Hurtado, Latino boys and girls face similar obstacles, but cultural factors also come into play. …

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