Latinas In Higher Education

written by Areli Gonzalez with contributions from the Latinitas Editor

Since the beginning of the Chicano movement in the late 1960s and during 1970s, there has been an increase in Latino women acquiring education. Sadly, up to this day there are still many women that drop out of college or do not enter into higher education. The root of this problem is the fact that many Latino women drop out of high school.

The American Association of University Women found that “Hispanic girls have a higher school dropout rate than girls in other racial or ethnic group.” Despite the drop out rate, there are women that have discovered disciplines in higher education, such as the sciences, the mathematics, and the human services. Yet, a question remains unclear: what are the different factors that affect women entering higher education?

Dropout Rate:

The Census Bureau claims the dropout rate for Latinas ages 16 to 24 is 30 percent, compared with 12.9 percent for blacks and 8.2 percent for whites. Some of the reasons for this high percentage is the lack of support girls experience in their homes or the belief that there is no help out there. Local high schools and even community colleges and universities offer tutoring or community outreach services that are readily available to the public. Money can become a major contributor to the low attendance and drop out rate amongst college students, especially for those who think college tuition is high or if a family thinks or cannot afford the high payments.

Family Pressures:

Oftentimes women are still seen as the wives and mothers of their families and have the need to fulfill this role. They are expected to “hold” the family together, such as being a single parent or acting as a provider for the family. Many enter higher education with dreams and goals, but if they have a family, or plan on having a family in the near future, then the college dream, depending on the circumstance, is either put on hold or eliminated.

“During my undergrad I had to provide for my family because of financial struggles. Working full-time and attending school full-time was difficult but not impossible. I know this isn’t the case for some people, but looking up what resources are available, like taking online classes, can truly help balance family and academic commitments. I’ve seen many students who graduate within 6 years instead of the regular 4 as well as students who are older than 40 pursuing their college dreams. To me, it doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to graduate or how old you are, as long as you are pursuing your college dream. There’s always hope! Don’t give up!”,” says Jasmine, a graduate student.

Finances, Location, and Racism:

These three factor also play a major role for Latino women to choose whether to stay in college or not. Finances is the most important one. Some girls do not have the financial resources to cover the high tuition, book expenses, and other living expenses that they might have. Attending an out of state university might add even more finance obstacles if financial aid does not cover tuition, books, and living expenses.

Like many other students, Maria, a journalism major at USC,  did not know that the process of being in college would be so difficult for her. She moved out of her house when she was accepted into USC and has struggled with the feeling of being homesick and missing her family. Since going to college, she has worried about how she fits in with her color and race. Maria struggled and keeps struggling with the worries of being a minority seeking a dream in a place in which she feels she does not fit.

For students struggling like Maria, college campuses often have organizations and activities to make students feel at home. Join an organization and make new friends, don’t let homesickness be the barrier for your dreams. Asking for a care-package from home can ease the homesickness and Skyping weekly, or calling them if  a webcam is not available, with family and friends can bring that much needed support from your loved ones.

“I’ve learned that racism is everywhere and the best thing you can do is try to peacefully speak out and educate others about wrong stereotypes or theories. Let them know what they say is hurtful to you and let them know it’s racist. Not very many people like being called racist nowadays,” says Laura Werthmann, a recent post-grad from St. Edwards.

For tips on whether or not to stay or leave out of college, visit this critically engaging Latinitas article.

Latina Women Today:

Hispanics as a whole will account for 25 percent of the nation’s school population in 2030. Thus, creating the fastest-growing female minority population. Some researchers recommend educators to pay close attention to the difficulties the Latino women face to enter higher education. Staying focused and remembering that the path to success may not be easy are the key elements for Latino youth women to achieve their dreams in higher education and life. Latino women who enter higher education often graduate in human services, but, in recent years, women have started to enter other disciplines. Many started to become doctors, engineers, business women, or scientists, thus helping to open paths to younger generations in these fields.

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