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Policy Institute Finds Lack of Knowledge Among Latino Parents on Getting Children into College

The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI) Center for Latino Educational Excellence found low levels among Latino parents on knowledge of how to get their children into college. The study also offers recommendations to increase college enrollment and close this knowledge gap.

Columbia Political Science Professor Rodolfo de la Garza is TRPI's vice president of research.

TRPI researchers presented "College Knowledge: What Latino Parents Need to Know and Why They Don't Know It" on July 11 to more than 50 community leaders in Los Angeles. They also presented policy recommendations to increase Latino college matriculation.

"The study shows that by the year 2015, Latinos will have the lowest percent of college graduates of any major ethnic group in the United States," said Harry Pachon, president of TRPI. "In order for this statistic to change, high schools, colleges and parents must work together to assure students the opportunity to attend college."

Through a telephone survey of more than 1,000 Latino parents in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and detailed case-study interviews of 41 of those parents, researchers found 65.7 percent of the parents failed a mini-test on factual college knowledge.

The findings suggest that unless these knowledge deficits are remedied, Latino children are likely to miss out on crucial steps leading to college. According to Lou Tornatzsky, senior investigator for the study, there is a stereotype among the academic community that Hispanic parents don't think about college for their children. Yet, he said 96 percent of the parents surveyed expected their children to go to college. The report also found that the knowledge deficits were significantly lower among parents with lower incomes and educational backgrounds as well as among first-generation immigrants.

"Latino parents need to learn how to be actively involved in shepherding their children through this process," said Maria Casillas, president, Families in Schools. "However, in order to play a positive role, parents must know about the prerequisites and what actions need to be taken and when."

The TRPI researchers also made several recommendations in the report to remedy the deficit in college knowledge, including:

  • Make increased college knowledge a priority among Latino advocacy, political and cultural organizations;
  • Make increased college attendance a performance metric for the ongoing assessment of secondary schools;
  • Launch a long-term public service announcement (PSA) campaign encompassing both Spanish-language and English-language radio and television;
  • Launch increased and focused college knowledge outreach to Latino parents in low-socio-economic status communities;
  • Increase the number of high school counselors and teachers who are genuinely bilingual, and
  • Working with college admissions offices, increase the use of "college rooms" in high schools.

TRPI also compiled answers to the 10 necessary questions all parents should know in order to begin preparing their children for college admission.

Published: Jul 15, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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