Monthly Archives: July 2011

Overcoming the 1st-Generation Success Gap

First-generation college students (like muah) face many challenges. Since first-generation students have parents who did not attend college, or high school in some instances,  they are far less knowledgeable about the “ins and outs” of college: preparedness, financial aid, acclimation, etc. Because of these challenges, many first-generation college students are at a higher risk of not completing their degree or they choose to attend school while working full-time.  

I came across a great organization today, Downtown College Prep (DCP), located in San Jose, California. An extraordinary organization that assists first-generation college students by assuring they are ready for college. Their website is filled with best practice information as well as practical illustrations of the great work they do.

Oganizations such as DCP help first-generation students both before and during college. This in itself goes a long way in mitigating the differences between first-generation and non-first generation college students.

 DCP provides a great model for any academic institution aiming to increase their recruitment and retainment of Latino first-generation college students.






First-generation college student, Miguel Corona, doctorate hooding in 2009.

The Dropping Out Crisis

Claudio Sanchez of NPR hosts a stunning five part series on America’s dropout crisis. Latinos have the highest dropout rate in the United States (47%) followed by African-Americans (43%), Whites, and Asian-Americans. The series examines not only the long-term career consequences of dropping out but the economic losses associated with not educating our communities of color. Worth a watch when you have some time. Overview is below.  

Latino Middle Class is Losing Ground

The National Employment Law Project released a report outlining what types of  jobs (by wage) were lost during the Great Recession.  According to the report, most of the jobs coming back during this slow recovery have been concentrated in the low wage category. Mid to higher wage jobs have not returned as quickly.

Guess where many Latino jobs are were concentrated? Yup.

And while many Latinos have found work in the recovering lower wage category, these jobs don’t drive economic growth – or provide a bright future for a growing community.

Pushing the STEM

Jean Rockford Aguilar-Valdez at NewsTaco makes the case regarding the need for more Latinos in STEM careers. I agree with his recommendation, too:

When 1 in 5 of the children in our schools is Latino, what justification is there for saying that STEM is only for the white, male, and middle- or upper-class? The demographics of the U.S. are changing, and with it we are faced with two options:

1.) Leave STEM to the disproportionally represented white population (and the associated stereotype that only white nerdy boys go into that field) and thus allow the STEM shortage to continue without Latinos enjoying the career-related benefits.

2.) Claim STEM as our own, as a field that can benefit from the strength of our numbers, perspectives, connections, and understandings; bringing to the Latino community all the economic, social, and intellectual power that the field of STEM affords to modern society.

Guess which one I recommend?

The "Choice" of College

Like many Latinos, I was a non-traditional college student. I didn’t set foot on a 4 year college campus until I was 23 years old. Up until then, I worked full-time as a shipping and receiving clerk for a small pool equipment company. My post-high school academic career consisted of dropping in and out of almost every school in the L.A. Community College system.

Attempting to work full-time and attend school was a disaster; however, making the decision to stop working didn’t make economic sense. It’s a dilemma that many Latino students face – is the return on investment worth the cost? In other words, is college worth it?

It’s a debate that’s been discussed more in the last few years, especially since our economic troubles. A good debate has been on-going via Economix. John Schmitt aptly writes about it here and here. In discussing why the benefits of college might not be apparent to some, especially men, John writes:

Almost by definition, increasing college completion involves getting students that in the past would not have attended college or who would have attended, but not completed college, to do so. To understand why college completion has not risen as fast as economic models might predict, we need to focus on the students who might, if conditions were slightly different, attend college. These students are wavering between going to a four-year college, attending community college, or entering the labor force immediately. They are on the fence for a variety of reasons. Maybe they did not have the highest grades in high school. Maybe they have work or family responsibilities. Maybe they feel that they cannot afford college.

All of these factors characterized my situation – and probably many Latinos today. I made the difficult decision to stop working and attend school full-time. A combination of Pell Grants and student loans were just enough to get me through my bachelor’s degree – just barely. It was satisfying to obtain my undergraduate degree, but the experience was emotionally and physically exhausting. Obviously, a learning environment that one would not consider optimal! Continue reading

The Great Recession & Shrinking Latino Wealth

PEW Hispanic Research just came out with a report that examines the impact of the “Great Recession” on the economic vitality of Latinos. Net worth for Latinos fell 66% – mostly related to home losses. Without a doubt, Latinos (and other minorities) were hit the hardest by the last recession. When it comes to employment numbers, the Latino workforce was impacted significantly:

Job losses were higher for Hispanic and black workers than for whites. The Hispanic unemployment rate (nonseasonally adjusted) increased from 5.9% in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 12.6% in the fourth quarter of 2009. The black unemployment rate increased from 8.6% to 15.6%. The increase in the unemployment rate for whites was much less, from 3.7% to 8.0%.

History and Trends: A History of Latino Union Participation

My father was a union member for most his career in the steel industry. He literally helped form many of the huge steel frames that created the L.A. freeway system. A couple members of my family are union professionals so this article by Latino Decisions resonates with me personally. It’s a great write up on Latinos and labor union participation over the last few decades. Latinos, who are disproportionately represented in low wage jobs, have much to lose in the on-going union busting battles occurring across the United States, including in my new backyard of Wisconsin. The issue has far reaching implications for the Latino workforce:

Multi-generation Latinos have a lot at stake in the current battle to curtail the power of public sector unions. Latinos disproportionately represent low-wage jobs and have relied heavily on the efforts of unions to negotiate fair wages and benefits. If the power of unions is severely curtailed, many Latinos may be left without this protection. This vulnerability for Latinos is confounded by the fact that they are one of the least likely groups to obtain a higher education (U.S. Dept. of Education 2010). Unions play an even greater role in diminishing wage inequalities for workers without college degrees (Agbede 2011).

Investing Time

Might just be me, but there seems to be a great deal of buzz related to Latino topics today (marketing, education, politics, etc.) via Twitter including President Obama’s appearance at the NCLR Conference in D.C (#NCLRConf). A lot tweets regarding organizations and leaders “investing” in the Latino community in different ways. What I find ironic is how investing often lacks the most important element – time.

Increasing your presence or investment alone will not provide the results you want. Whether investing in financial markets or in the Latino community – it’s investment of time that will eventually provide the ROI.