President Barack Obama signs the Executive Order on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics on Oct. 19, 2010 at the White House.
Source: Education Week, “White House Renews Attention to Hispanic Education,” Oct. 19, 2010, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/10/19/09hispanic.h30.html.
Credibility is a problematic characteristic. The United States government has consistently exerted effort to convey to the Latino community that one of its priority initiatives is to improve the quality of life of the Latino community. Increasing the influence and strength of the community is part of the Obama administration’s “Winning the Future” campaign and President Obama himself has stated that “the future of the United States is inextricably linked to the future of the Hispanic community.” This fact makes true the perception that the education of the Latino community should be a priority of the federal government. A recent report that was released last week by the Department of Education states that while the Hispanic community compromises the largest percentage of American minority enrollment in public education institutions, it is also the group that is experiencing the lowest levels of educational attainment.
The consequences of a halted academic career are well documented. Educational achievement on average leads to a more comfortable level of existence. Many aspects of life are improved through the process of high levels of educational attainment. Experiences are acquired, skills are developed and sharpened, and networks of resources and critical relationships are constructed through a maturation process that includes a serious investment in education. According to a Gallup poll, income and education levels combine to predict health problems. It has been established and confirmed that higher levels of educational attainment facilitate the achievement of high-level compensation. Therefore, truncated academic careers have an adverse effect on the potential for high-income growth as well as the physical health of individuals who have not developed fully academically. This is also a concern because of the conservative proposal to make significant funding cuts in federal subsidies dedicated to healthcare. Pending budget cuts have the possibility of impeding the path to success for many Latino students and, additionally, present the risk of exacerbating the educational and social concerns.
In a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center study, approximately 47 percent of Latinos ages 16 to 25 believed they would attend graduate or professional school when asked how much further in school they planned to go. While this is an encouraging statistic regarding the desires of Latino students, only 4 percent of Latinos ages 26 and older have completed postgraduate training or professional schooling after college. Economics can be attributed to the unquenched thirst for educational progression. This same report asked students what they considered major reasons for not continuing their education. 40 percent of students ages 16 to 25 reported that they felt an elongated academic career was unaffordable. 74 percent of students of that same age group felt compelled to support their family financially rather than continue in school. This financial barrier is affecting young Latinos financially, socially, and physically.
The odds are not auspicious for the Latino community’s education ambitions. The current discussion about federal budget cuts is affecting education from grammar school to graduate school. According to a Huffington Post article that discusses state budget cuts in education, most of the stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was utilized for job-saving expenditures. This means that funds were not allocated directly to the improvement of the quality of education Latinos and other minority students were receiving, which is a disappointment since approximately 66 percent of students ages 16 to 25 believe that too many teachers don’t know how to work with Hispanic/Latino students because they come from different cultures. Part of the Department of Education’s strategy for assisting Latino students to succeed is to increase access to higher education through increased federal funding. This goal, however, is in danger. According to a US News report, a shortage of college grants—which includes Pell Grants and other federally financed education awards—are likely in 2011 and 2012.
The current administration has acknowledged that the Hispanic community will play an integral role in the future of the United States. It is important for the prospect of re-election that the President’s administration seriously considers the concerns and demands of the largest minority group in the United States. Latino communities have demonstrated that they are unwilling to accept administrative and legislative policy that has negative effects on the probability of success for Latino students. The legislative and executive branches have to demonstrate that they are willing to be partners in the development of the Latino community in the United States rather than inhibiting agents. Conduct to the contrary will create an attitude within the community that will be reflected in election results. In the discussion regarding how to best reduce the federal deficit, those who have stated that they advocate for the Latino community need to protect the community’s interests. If not, the credibility that so much effort has been expended for will dissolve swiftly.
Ernie Dominguez is a first-year student at the University of Maryland School of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Policy Initiative Director.
For more about NLLSA’s Policy Initiative, please visit http://www.nllsa.org/policy.
- Department of Education report, “Winning the Future: Improving Education for the Latino Community”: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/WinningTheFutureImprovingLatinoEducation.pdf.
- Gallup Poll article, “Income, Education Levels Combine to Predict Health Problems”: http://www.gallup.com/poll/127532/Income-Education-Levels-Combine-Predict-Health-Problems.aspx.
- Huffington Post article, “Education Budget Cuts: Schools Face Fiscal Cliff As Stimulus Money Runs Out”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/06/education-budget-cuts_n_845620.html.
- Pew Hispanic Center study, “Latinos and Education: Explaining the Attainment Gap”: http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/115.pdf.
- US News article, “Cheaper Student Loans, But Shortage of College Grants Likely in 2011 and 2012”: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2011/01/31/cheaper-student-loans-but-shortage-of-college-grants-likely-in-2011-and-2012.