Why Don't More Hispanics Go to College?

by Claudia Cabrera

Why don't more Hispanics go to college? That is one of the biggest questions that many people think about.

According to a 1994 issue of Hispanics today, 9.1% of Hispanics 25 years old and older have graduated from college. This is compared to 24% for Whites and 13% for Blacks. At Blair, Mr. Bellino, the ESOL Resource Teacher, believes that there are very few Hispanics students who even begin college. "In my experience, I would be surprised if 9% of the Hispanic ESOL students at Blair even begin college."

According to Mr. Moreno, an ESOL counselor, there are many reasons why Hispanic students don't go to college. One of the reasons is because they don't have the money. "College is very expensive so they become discouraged," Mr. Moreno said.

Another reason is because a lot of students are not encouraged by their families to go to college and they think that to graduate from high school is enough. "The school is just a step to go to college," Mr. Moreno said, "It's very important they know what they want to do," he said, "Every student must have a goal."

Mr. Luis Catacora a former ESOL student of Blair added that students basically don't know what college is about. They don't have somebody to ask or talk to and often they don't know the advantages of college. "Things such as deciding on a major, taking aptitude tests, selecting a college, visiting schools, the application process, financial aid &endash; all of these things are normal, common knowledge for non-immigrants since generally their parents went through the same thing. However, for immigrant students all of this is a big blank. They don't know about it so they miss out," Mr. Catacora said.

Mr. Catacora feels that he has been fortunate but has had his own share of difficulties. "It took me eight years to finish my BS in Mechanical Engineering," he said. During this time he also got married and had two children. "I had to take a year off to work, and then afterwards had to work full time and study part-time, getting loans and lots of help from my family," Mr. Catacora said. "It is just a matter of determination, perseverance and sometimes sacrifice."

Dr. Paula Matuskey, an Instructional Dean of Montgomery College, believes that there are good students who just don't go to college because maybe they feel that they have other responsibilities. "They would not feel that college is in their future," she said. But now college is even more important than in the past. "With society changing technologically it is going to be very important for everybody to have a post secondary education of some kind or another," she said.

Zulma Martinez a 1998 Blair graduate was planning to go to college this year and even got a scholarship but, for personal reasons, she is not going to college right now. But she will begin college in the next semester. Right now, she is working as an account assistant of a construction company. Zulma feels that a lot of Hispanics in school don't believe that they can get financial aid. Some people even told Zulma that she wouldn't be able to get a scholarship, perhaps because she was an ESOL student. "But I didn't care what they said. I filled out some applications and I got a scholarship," she said. Actually, Zulma got more than $2,000 in scholarships. Zulma said, "I want to tell the students in 12th grade to fill out applications for scholarships and aid and don't miss the deadlines."

Some of the ESOL students in 12th grade have plans to realize after high school. Adolfo Orellana is one of them. After high school he wants to go to the Marines to get money for college. "After that I, will go to the Air Force, to be a pilot," he said.

Alfredo Barrera is another student who wants to be in the military. "When I finish my high school I will go to the Navy," Alfredo said.

Many students say they are planning to find a job first. "Right now, I'm not planning to go to college," a student said. "I want to work for two or three years and after these years I will think about going to college."

Some students don't plan to go to college at all. "When I finish my high school I will go to my country for two or three months. Then I will return to work," Jose Blanco said.

Luis Catacora has some advice. Students should take advantage of the learning opportunities that are available to them. "Don't think of them as classes and tests. Think of them as opportunities to learn new things and new concepts." A very important thing to keep in mind also is that public education is free. Students should take classes that will benefit them in the long run, that will give them skills that can be applied in a wide variety of jobs. "I'm not saying to exclude all of the fun classes, simply to utilize your elective classes wisely and strive to do your best in all of your classes," Mr. Catacora said.

Dr. Matuskey at Montgomery College believes it's important for high school students to get encouragement from others who are in college. In the past the Montgomery College Hispanic Club has visited Blair and other schools to talk to students and has taken them to see the campus. She hopes that they will be able to begin doing that again.

There are many programs that are helping the Hispanics who want to continue their studies. One of this program is Hispanic Alliance.They are going to have a special program at Blair on Sunday November 15, from 1:00 P.M to 4:00 p.m. They will explain about how to fill out the Free Financial Aid Form.

This year on the same date and time will be a Mini-College Fair. Representatives of some universities will provide information for everybody. In the past, the Hispanic Alliance has encouraged all students to take advantage of this, not just Hispanic students. The financial aid meeting will be in both Spanish and English.

 Copyright © 1999, Silver International, Montgomery Blair H.S., Silver Spring, MD USA (This page was created by Claudia, Emmanuel, and Meron)