by Lande Ajose

Executive Director

by Carol Liu

Former State Senator

Data Systems Degree Attainment Employment

Prioritizing Higher Education Outcomes for Latino Californians

As California’s Latino population rapidly expands, we must address our education system’s deficiencies in preparing Latino students to meet workforce demands. While educational outcomes for Latinos are improving, change is too slow, and millions of Latino Californians are struggling to find a path to economic mobility in our state’s innovation economy. 

California Competes recently cohosted a dynamic set of briefings, “Higher Education and Latinos in California.” California Competes Executive Director Lande Ajose presented with Univision Political and Advocacy Group Senior Vice President Chiqui Cartagena during the March 21st event in Los Angeles. A panel discussion that included Los Angeles Community College District Trustee Andra Hoffman and Campaign for College Opportunity President Michele Siqueiros followed the presentations from the host organizations. California Competes Leadership Council member and former state senator Carol Liu joined Ms. Cartagena for the March 23rd event in Sacramento along with Sacramento State Assistant Vice President of Strategic Diversity Initiatives Viridiana Diaz and California Community Colleges Deputy Chancellor Daisy Gonzales.

Leading up to the events, California Competes partnered with Univision’s Political and Advocacy Group to develop a statewide survey to uncover what California’s Latino voters think about higher education and workforce opportunities. This collaboration follows the recent release of our newest publication, Opportunity Imbalance: Race, Gender, and California’s Education-to-Employment Pipeline. We were excited to partner in this public opinion project to evaluate how Latino Californians’ perceptions of our higher education system compare to outcomes data: college enrollment, degree attainment, and wages and workforce participation.

Univision Political and Advocacy Group Senior Vice President Chiqui Cartagena questions panelists during the breakfast briefing in Sacramento on March 23, 2018.

What’s striking is how the desire for economic mobility often drives Latinos to college, and once there, the reality of having to earn a living while attending classes drives students away before completing their degree.

What’s striking is how the desire for economic mobility often drives Latinos to college, and once there, the reality of having to earn a living while attending classes drives students away before completing their degree. Students can sustain a certain amount of work, but one-third of Latinos surveyed say they plan to work more than 20 hours per week while taking classes. The data tells us those students likely won’t complete their degree. Needing to work and make money is the most common reason for dropping out of college.

The survey findings also tell us that most Latinos planning to attend college and their parents don’t know about the programs they can use to afford higher education and plan to use their own savings to pay for tuition. Debt is often necessary to afford higher education. Research shows Latinos are more loan-averse compared to non-Latinos, making college affordability an even more significant factor when choosing whether to attend college. Currently, less than half of Latinos in California complete their associate’s degree within three years or their bachelor’s degree within six years.

After reviewing the findings, many of which demonstrate the need for changes to California’s higher education system, event moderator Chiqui Cartagena asked panelists how policies can better support Latino student success.

California Competes believes policymakers must address the persistent inequities in California’s education-to-employment pipeline:

·       First, California needs a statewide, comprehensive education data system—with unique student identifiers—that incorporates P-12, postsecondary, and workforce outcomes and allows for disaggregation by race/ethnicity. The absence of such a data system keeps policymakers from making informed decisions based on student experiences.

·       Second, California needs a coordinating entity to hold and analyze the data while also holding the state and all its higher education segments accountable for student success.

·       Third, California Competes supports innovative policies and institutional practices like Governor Jerry Brown’s 115th online community college proposal. The online community college will offer a more flexible structure to allow working students to take classes when—and where—it’s convenient for them.  

While a six-figure salary in the year after graduation is unrealistic for most students, we have an obligation to ensure more Latinos can access the path to economic mobility

The survey results tell us nine out of ten Latinos planning to attend college believe higher education is a path to “getting a better job and making more money.” Latinos hope to earn more after completing college, and their parents have even higher expectations. More than 20% of Latino parents anticipate their child will earn over $100,000 in their first job after completing their degree. While a six-figure salary in the year after graduation is unrealistic for most students, we have an obligation to ensure more Latinos can access the path to economic mobility. We must prioritize degree attainment for Latinos—who represent 14.9 million Californians—to secure our future economy and build vibrant communities across our state.

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