January 29, 2004

Report: Colleges unprepared for Latino students

(AP) --With Hispanics graduating from high school in numbers that will keep
increasing for years, the head of a higher education group that released a new report on
the trend says colleges need to step up efforts to accommodate the nation's largest

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education projects that Hispanics
will account for 21 percent of the country's public high school graduates in 2008,
up from 17 percent in 2002.

The commission found that nearly 5 million Hispanics were enrolled in the
country's public elementary and high schools in 1993-94. And by the 2007-08
school year, it projects that Latino public school enrollment will be about 9 million.

"In general, colleges are still not prepared," said David Longanecker, executive
director of the interstate commission. Its report, "Knocking at the College Door,"
is released every five years and is used by local school districts, states and higher
education to track enrollment trends.

"We know there is a relationship between race and income and academic
preparedness," Longanecker said. "But we don't have the support services in
place to enhance the success that we need."

Using data compiled from the nation's leading test-makers, the U.S. census and
other sources, the WICHE study projects a significant regional shift in the
school-age population to the South and West that follows general population

In 2007-08, Southern states are expected to enroll 16.7 million students in
kindergarten through high school. WICHE said enrollment in Western schools
will be 11.9 million in 2007-08, followed by 10.8 million in the Midwest and 9.3
million in the Northeast.

Because of continuing gains in Hispanic enrollment, the report said, white
students will represent a minority of graduates from Western high schools in

Although Hispanics enroll in college at almost the same rate as non-Latino
students, they often bring special circumstances to school, said Richard Fry, a
senior research associate with the Pew Hispanic Trust.

Hispanics are less likely to attend college full-time and are more likely to work so
they can provide financial support to dependents, Fry said.

"In order to help these students receive degrees -- particularly bachelor's
degrees, but also associate's degrees and vocational credentials -- you have to
help them negotiate their work lives, their family lives, as well as their academic
lives," Fry said.

He said community colleges, in particular, need to improve tutorial services for
Hispanic students placed in remedial academic and vocational training programs.

T. Jaime Chahin, a scholar at the Tomas Rivera Center at Trinity University in
San Antonio, said that some schools, especially in the Southwest, are making
progress integrating Hispanic culture into campus life.

But he said schools across the country need to do a better job of recruiting and
retaining Latino faculty members who can serve as role models for Hispanic

The process of pushing Hispanics toward college degrees needs to begin at the
elementary school level, he added.

Hispanics should feel "that college is not a novelty but is something that is
expected, even for first-generation students who have never been exposed to
these kinds of opportunities," said Chahin, also a professor at Southwest Texas
State University in San Marcos.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.