By Brian Woodman Jr. CTLatinoNews.com
Spokespersons for different colleges in Connecticut said they are using everything from preparatory programs for middle school students to social media as they try to attract more Latino students.
Awilda Saavedra-Reasco, director of pre-collegiate and access services for Central Connecticut State University, said Spanish-oriented media such as newspapers, television and radio were particularly important to increasing Latino college enrollment.
“Engaging families and incoming students at an early start will get them to seek for help and graduate at a college setting,” she said. “Latinos continue to cherish education and want their children to succeed. Our Latino faculty and administrators are devoted to students and share their own achievements. You will find more Latino and Latina professionals in private and public schools urging Latinos to apply to colleges. We have established strong partnerships with the community.”
About 68 percent of the high school students in Connecticut that graduated in 2012 immediately enrolled in college that fall, said Kelly Donnelly, who is the communications director for the state Department of Education. She added that about 51 percent of the Latino and Hispanic graduates enrolled as opposed to 73.5 percent of the white graduates.
About 69 percent of the Hispanics that graduated nationally that year enrolled in college, which is 2 percent more than non-Hispanic whites, according to data from Pew Research Center; a think tank funded by Pew Charitable Trusts. According to other information from the center, which posted the study online in September, 49 percent of Hispanics between 18 and 24 were enrolled; again 2 percent more than whites.
“Latino families and urban communities have become more aware of higher education and the importance of obtaining a college degree,” said Reasco.
According to information released by the state legislature’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, almost 17 percent of the college students that enrolled in Connecticut state colleges and universities in 2012 were Latino while almost 63 percent where white. This translates to 55,779 whites and 15,035 Latinos.
However, the number of Latinos was greater than other minority groups for that fall. Only 14.8 percent were African American or Black and 3.3 percent were Asian.
Rhona Free, the provost for Eastern Connecticut State University, said many Latino students were concerned about the cost of college; ECSU, she said, attracted potential applicants because of its high four-year graduation rate. Students, she said, could incur significant extra costs for each extra year in college beyond the first four even after accounting for foregone earnings; a particular source of concern for first-generation families. She also cited a study by the national advocacy group the Education Trust at http://ctbythenumbers.info/2012/09/20/eastern-connecticuts-increase-in-hispanic-graduation-rate-is-1-nationally/ that ranked ECSU’s increase in Latino student graduation (57.8 percent in 2010) as the best in the country.
Reasco said that Univision and other Spanish media have produced clips and Youtube information on universities and what it takes to be successful and college-educated.
“I direct a program call Connecticut Collegiate Awareness Preparation Program (ConnCAP) for New Britain students from grades eight through 12,” she said. “We provide them with academic, tutorial and personal support during the entire academic year and offer mandatory six-week summer courses for these students who have the potential to attend a college.”
She emphasized the importance of parental involvement.
“Monthly parent meetings are held at the middle and high schools and three meetings are conducted on the college campus,” she said. “The objectives are to expose higher education to Latinos at an early stage. In addition, seeking for scholarships and introducing Financial Aid is essential. We speak Spanish to the families if they request it.”
Free said ECSU worked with Bridgeport and other urban areas to organize visits to campus for middle school students. She emphasized that the college provided written information and presentations in Spanish.