I’ve often advocated on this blog that Hispanic college students do not fit the typical “pipeline” description when it comes to their higher education experiences. A “pipeline” in the educational context often denotes linear progression – a process that is continuous and developmental at the same time. In theory, this model makes a lot of sense; however, from a Hispanic perspective a different metaphorical model is needed. This El Paso Times article captures the essence of the Hispanic college student experience nicely. Hispanics often face many challenges on their path toward being a college graduate: work, family, and lack of financial resources are just a few. Having worked at the University of Texas at El Paso Career Center for almost five years, I can attest to the consequences of Hispanic college students “on ramping and off ramping” their college careers due to a lack of financial resources. Given the consequences of cutbacks state schools face around the country, it seems the challenege is getting even steeper.
As the EPTimes article accurately describes, Hispanic college students often leave school to earn additional monies in order to help pay for another quarter, semester, or year of college. I waited FIVE years after graduating from high school before setting foot on 4 year institution, meticulously saving money while I worked full time. Ironically, I saved enough for only two years of school before having to apply for student loans and other grants (another issue for first generation Hispanic college students altogether). I realize this trend is not concentrated to Hispanic college students. Women and other minorities face similar challenges while trying to obtain their college degrees. So rather than depicting education as a pipeline, I again advocate that for Hispanics and other minorities, the education process resembles more that of a matrix or a circuit with entry and decision making points being made at different points within and outside of the higher education process. Some colleges and universities are beginning to take note that the increasing presence of Hispanics on campuses requires change and I applaud their efforts; it’s just not happening as fast as I’d like to see.