Report finds decrease in Latino graduation rates

By Nick Escobar

According to a 2004 study released by the Pew Hispanic Center, fewer than 25 percent of Latino students who enter college finish with a bachelor’s degree.

The study stated that both Latino and Caucasian students enter post-secondary education at the same rate. Of high school graduates, 82 percent of both groups that continue their education enter either a four-year or a two-year institution. The study also concluded that more than 60 percent of Latino students who pursue post-secondary education begin at a two-year college.

Cesar Rodriguez, a Latino and senior in LAS, has excelled at the University. Rodriguez said through his personal initiative, he has overcome what the report considers obstacles for Latino students.

“I personally wanted to do something,” Rodriguez said. “I won’t make excuses – if anything I’ll work harder.”

He added that the values instilled in him by his parents along with his desire to succeed helped him get where he is. He does not blame anyone or anything for having to work hard.

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“(Don’t) compete against anyone else, just compete against yourself,” Rodriguez said. “There’s always going to be someone better than you.”

Giraldo Rosales, director of La Casa Cultural Latina, believes the problems with minority student enrollment stem from high school guidance counselors pushing minority students toward community colleges.

“Transfer students don’t make it,” Rosales said. “The University, as a business, is looking for four years of tuition, not two years.”

Fewer than 13 percent of Latinos who attend a two-year institution will finish with a bachelor’s degree, according to the study.

In addition, Latinos tended to apply to less selective colleges than Caucasians.

The study also asserted that more than 25 percent of the best-prepared Latinos will end up with no post-secondary education at all.

“A lot of people don’t like to leave home,” said Tony Diaz, sophomore in LAS. “Their family ties are really strong and they don’t think there will be that many Latinos at their university.”

Tuition cost topped the study’s list of reasons why Latino students do not finish their degrees.

“People base where they’re going to go on how much financial aid they’re going to get,” said Jorge Cosio, freshman in engineering.

The study noted poor high school education as the third reason minority students fail in post-secondary education.

“The Chicago public schools are some of the worst in the country,” Rosales said. “(Minority) kids are already projected to fail. Be proud of who you are; this is a public institution and you’re allowed here.”

The University has implemented organizations and resources to help minority students adjust and succeed. The Bridge Program, for example, helps minority students who did not score well on their ACT to adjust to the academics they will face at the University.

“The Bridge Program opened the doors to Champaign,” Rodriguez said. “It prepared me academically and mentally for University life.”

The Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA) also helps minority students by offering tutoring and test help throughout the semester. In total there are more than 40 programs geared toward minority students.

OMSA director Michael Jeffries disagreed with the findings of the Pew report, saying there are more factors on an individual basis that determine a successful college career.

“The challenge for underrepresented students is that they are more likely to be first-generation college students,” Jeffries said. “That makes a difference.”

He added that the University’s graduation rate is higher than the national average. Ninety-five percent of students who use OMSA return for their sophomore year.

Rosales said the University’s retention rate is only about 68 percent, with only 5 percent of those being Latino students.

The study found that the nation’s exceptionally high achievers, despite race, apply at the nation’s top-tier schools. However, the countries top schools only educate three percent of the nation’s undergrads.

“A lot of people look at the ACT too much,” Rodriguez said. “It’s great that you got a high score, but it doesn’t show anything about how smart you are.”