Hoping to go to college but wondering how you’ll ever pay for it? That’s a common concern for most high school students these days, and even more so for Latinos. Between 1990 and 2016, Latino college enrollment increased by 337%, which means they now account for one in every five college students. However, a variety of financial, legal, and logistical obstacles make it hard for them to stay enrolled or pay back their loans.
For the first time in over a decade, Congress is considering whether to re-authorize the Higher Education Act, a piece of legislation that governs the foundation of the U.S. post-secondary system. For instance, it governs the laws that determine federal aid, including Pell grants and student loans. UnidosUS’s higher education policy and programming staff is working to maintain and improve the legislation through research and lobbying efforts, as well as through its college readiness training.
This spring UnidosUS paid a visit to Congress to present three higher-ed briefs highlighting data and the affordability issues that Latinos face. We also invited students from UnidosUS’s college-readiness program The Escalera: Taking Steps to Success to share their own college funding concerns with Capitol Hill staffers. Those students are featured in the embedded video.
Founded in 2001, Escalera seeks to improve the educational and career outcomes for Latinos by increasing high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment, college graduation rates, and advancement into careers with opportunities for upward economic mobility. Escalera currently reaches over 1,100 high school students at Affiliates sites all across the United States, such as Mexican American Council in Homestead, Fla.,Conexión Americas in Nashville, Tenn., Para los Niños in Los Angeles, and Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc. in Philadelphia.
Through these partnerships, high school juniors and seniors learn how to prepare both academically and financially for college, explore career options, and develop their leadership skills. Annual events such as the Youth Leadership Summit, held in conjunction with the Changemakers Summit in Washington D.C., serve as important platforms for networking and engaging in advocacy for their fellow Latinos through their elected officials and in the communities where they live, study, and work.
So if you’re a student trying to plan for and pay for college, or a parent, educator or community leader hoping to advocate for young Latinos on that mission, we encourage you to read our policy briefs and check back regularly to that link since we’ll be uploading more materials in the coming weeks. We also encourage you to join an Escalera program in your area. You can find one by clicking here.