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Posted at 3:34 PM ET, 02/23/2011

Guest post: We need 14 million more Hispanic degrees

By Daniel de Vise

Here is a guest post by Frank Alvarez, president and CEO of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund:

As Hispanic Americans watch the batches of data flow out from the U.S. Census Bureau we have both a sense of pride and anxiety. Pride in our contributions to American society and anxiety about the corresponding challenges we face, especially in the area of higher education. alvarez.jpg

The 2010 census is showing that Hispanics are playing an increasingly important role in communities all over the U.S. The Hispanic population in Arkansas increased by 114 percent in the last 10 years and now stands at 186,050. In Mississippi, our numbers since 2000 have increased 106 percent to 81,481.

Our historically large population in Texas is now at 9 million, or 38 percent of the state's entire population. Hispanics comprise 48 percent of Texans under the age of 18 and they all hope to play an important role in America's future in some way or another.

The path to a successful future has often included a college education. The reality is the U.S. Latino degree attainment rate stands at 19 percent -- much lower than it should be. Our goal is to move this to 60 percent by 2025 in order to meet the college attainment goals set forth for all Americans by President Obama and supporters like Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That means 14 million more Hispanic two- and four-year degree holders in the next 14 years.

Together with our partners, we aim to create the movement that can help meet this goal. We know Hispanic culture revolves around the family and we know the decisions made by an older brother or sister have an impact on the younger ones. If we can influence, urge and aid that older sibling to go on the college path, he or she will be a springboard to help the younger ones take the same journey.

We're calling this idea Generation 1st Degree because it's focused on getting Latinos and Latinas to earn the family's first college degree.

Here is some research we conducted about the difference this effort can make:

· An increase in Latinos with college degrees to 60 percent will lead to a significant increase in Latino lifetime earnings--from the current $24 trillion to $47 trillion (in today's dollars) by 2025.

· These increased earnings will result in an estimated $2.2 trillion increase in federal tax revenue that will help all Americans

We know our Generation 1st Degree idea can work because we already see it in action every day.

Let me share with you the story of Lisa Pino. She comes from an immigrant family that had limited means. Paying for college and law school was a continual struggle and she often had to sell clothes and furniture just to make ends meet during her studies. Sometimes she skipped meals.

We helped Lisa with financial aid -- sometimes as little as $1,000 a year -- but it made a difference. Lisa graduated and advanced in her career. She now serves as the Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Food and Nutrition Service for U.S. Department of Agriculture in D.C.

Even more importantly, Lisa is giving back by mentoring Hispanic students and working on civil rights priorities as well as addressing obesity in the Hispanic community. For instance, she created a national roundtable tour that dealt with nutrition access among communities of color.

Lisa is the type of person behind these Census numbers. There are millions more like her. The choice is ours as to how to meet the challenge as a country and as individuals.

Follow College Inc. on Twitter.

By Daniel de Vise  | February 23, 2011; 3:34 PM ET
Categories:  Access, Aid, Attainment, Public policy, Students  | Tags:  aid, American Graduation Initiative, attainment, college completion, Frank Alvarez, Hispanic Scholarship Fund  
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Your "sense of pride" is based on what? Procreating yourself into the majority in someone else's home? The lands you abandoned ought to look like the French Riviera, but you could not survive in them? Would that Hispanics were paying attention as the Libyans show them what they too ought to be doing. Then they would truly deserve a "sense of pride."

Posted by: deemontgomery1 | February 24, 2011 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Alvarez,
Upon reading your post I was impressed to read about the concept of "Generation 1st Degree." I believe the concept of focusing on the eldest child and giving them the resources and motivation to reach higher education is extremely important. As individuals we are constantly being influence by our immediate environment to purchase things, engage in activities, etc. By putting forth the model of a college student, I do believe younger siblings will view this as something they have to must hope to be. As a Hispanic college student, I can attest to having been influenced by my older sibling who attended a university to study and work hard so that I too could enter a university.

In your post you mention the need to push more Hispanic students into higher education due to the Hispanic population increasing across the United States but you do not to mention how many of these Hispanics are in the country illegally. If your program intends to help illegal immigrants, I must ask where the funding for your program is coming from. Many Americans who oppose illegal immigration take offense at having government money fund programs that help illegal individuals who are not suppose to be in this country in the first place. If there are millions more like Lisa Pino who received financial aid of $1,000, we are talking about several billions of dollars in financial aid. Who is providing the funds for this aid?

The Generation 1st Degree at first sight seems like a great concept to influence more latino/a students in higher education, however it does not discuss the possibility of failure. Although providing aid for an older sibling to attend college seems like a logical way to influence a younger sibling, what if it does not work? Ideally the hope is for the student to finish college having earned a degree, but what if the student does not finish college? The money invested in this student would thus have been lost. In addition to that if younger siblings are susceptible to the influence of their older siblings through their actions, this young child might be influenced in not attending a college or university. There is no guarantee that the student will actually go on to finish school.

In order to garner more support for your program perhaps in a future post you could discuss the requirements a Hispanic student would have to meet in order to receive aid. Also, perhaps there should be a form of contractual agreement that the student will finish college within a certain amount of years and graduate with a degree. In addition to that I believe it is also important to make it a form of requirement to volunteer to mentor younger generations of Hispanic students, not simply siblings, to reach for higher education.

Posted by: kguardado | February 28, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

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