Getting in, staying in, and graduating

NCLR Líderes Summit participant calls for solutions to boost Latino college retention

While more Latinos than ever are enrolling in college, disparities persist, including in the rates of students who are obtaining degrees. A new NCLR report, “Getting In, Staying In: Community Perspectives on the Barriers to Latino Postsecondary Education,” calls for policies and programs to close the gap by making higher education access, affordability and completion a reality for Latinos and all students.

Andrew Nichols

The paper was presented last week at a Capitol Hill briefing that included remarks from Andrew Nichols, Director of Higher Education Research and Data Analytics at The Education Trust; Jessica Thompson, Senior Policy Analyst at The Institute for College Access and Success; Texas Representative Rubén Hinojosa; and Giovanni Escobedo, a former NCLR Líderes participant who spoke about financial barriers to higher education.

Escobedo’s hardships mirror those faced by far too many students as captured by insights from a town hall on higher education held at the 2015 NCLR Annual Conference. His story shows how our country can lose out on much-needed talent in the absence of the political and institutional structures necessary to ensure all students succeed.

Jessica Thompson

‘Cost is the issue’

Escobedo came to the United States at age 15 by himself, leaving his family in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, for the chance to reach his dreams. He graduated from high school in three years with all the desire to attend college but no way to pay for it. With his college dreams on hold, Escobedo had been working at a restaurant for several years when a chef encouraged him to enroll in the culinary arts program at El Centro College in Dallas. While there a professor saw his potential and urged him to also study science. In 2014 Escobedo graduated with a degree in culinary arts and an associate’s degree in science.

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa
Texas Representative Rubén Hinojosa

Now he’s enrolled at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering. He plans to eventually become a research doctor to work on prosthetics development and gene therapy. Having navigated postsecondary education as a DACA student, Giovanni lends his voice and efforts to inspire others to fight for opportunities and finish their education. He recognizes that it’s not simply about having the will and the desire to succeed—policies have to be in place to help students along the way.

“As DACA students we don’t have access to financial aid. We maximize our scholarships but still have to work. So we are faced with having to be full-time students and full-time employees,” Escobedo said.

“If we want better futures and better communities, the only way we’re going to get it is through education,” he added. “But cost is the issue.”

Students like Escobedo are working hard to complete their educations. But as our report shows, it’s up to institutions and lawmakers to provide the necessary supports to help students succeed. At NCLR we will continue working with elected officials, Affiliates, and partners to make sure Latino students have equal opportunities to achieve success in higher education and beyond.