Excelencia in Education Urges Policy Makers to Apply Latino Student Experience

The said the experience of Latino students can be  used to revamp of Federal Financial Aid. Gates-funded research offers fresh perspective to help policy makers redesign financial aid system to better serve low-income students of all backgrounds.


Washington, DC [CapitalWirePR] February 14, 2013– During a Capitol Hill briefing and panel discussion with congressional leaders, Excelencia in Education today released the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded white paper “Using A Latino Lens To Reimagine Aid Design And Delivery.”

Excelencia in Education is America’s premier thought leader on Latinos in higher education and the only Latino-focused organization among the 16 selected by the Gates Foundation to inform their national discussion about redesigning federal financial aid.

“Federal financial aid is currently structured with traditional students in mind, but post-traditional students are a growing proportion of those seeking college degrees,” said Deborah Santiago, Excelencia in Education’s vice president for policy and research, and author of the white paper.

“What if aid policy changed to serve post-traditional students rather than trying to force students to fit into a decreasingly relevant traditional profile?  Using the profile of America’s young and growing Latino population as the baseline, rather than the footnote, to define the post-traditional student, we are providing a fresh perspective on financial aid policy for all students.”

Excelencia in Education’s research demonstrates that Latinos are more likely to be post-traditional students who, for example, enroll at a community college, take courses part-time while working, study online and at multiple institutions, live off-campus with family, and take more than four years to complete a degree.  Therefore, by examining financial aid through a Latino lens, policymakers can redesign a federal financial aid system that is more relevant and effective for students of all backgrounds.

“With Latino students entering our nation’s colleges and universities in record numbers, we must ensure that our nation’s federal financial aid policies meet their needs,” said Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (Texas), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.  “I thank Excelencia in Education for hosting this informative briefing on federal financial aid policy.”

“Our national financial aid system must reflect the reality of the students it is intended to serve,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Arizona), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Education Task Force.  “Latino students are vital to that equation, and this research also demonstrates how looking at the system through their eyes can lead to better financial aid solutions for all.”

“Education is part of the Infrastructure of Opportunity that enables Americans to pursue their dreams,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas).  “It is critical that we review and improve federal financial aid policies that reflect the needs of all of today’s students, recognizing that Latinos have the fastest growing enrollment in higher education.”

“Excelencia in Education has long made the strong case that we must increase college completion among Latinos for America to succeed economically in the future and meet President Obama’s 2020 goal of world leadership in college degrees,” said Rep. Joe Garcia (Florida).  “This latest contribution also clearly shows how better understanding and incorporating the Latino experience can strengthen the for all students.”

In its white paper, Excelencia in Education makes the case that federal financial aid policy should be reimagined and redesigned based on the following principles:

·         Efficiency in serving traditional students today can limit effectiveness in serving a majority of students tomorrow.

·         Prioritize access for low-income students with financial aid and compliment with incentives to complete.

·         Effective financial aid policy requires more than funding.

·         Transparency of information on federal financial aid requires strategic outreach and engagement for maximum effectiveness.

“As this white paper demonstrates, by understanding the data from a research-based perspective that recognizes America’s growing population of Latino students as an asset to our nation, we are informing and transforming the conversation about improving financial aid to accelerating college completion,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education.

The following student profiles illustrate common characteristics of Latino students that also reflect the challenges faced by low-income students of all backgrounds, whom federal financial aid is intended to serve:

Yuridia was a married 24-year-old student of Mexican descent. She was a first generation U.S. citizen and spoke both English and Spanish fluently. Yuridia attended a public university in South Texas full-time, lived off campus, and worked full-time. She was the main financial provider for her family because her husband had been injured. She did not graduate from high school, but earned a GED before entering college. Her parents did not have a college education, and her family income was less than $40,000 a year.

Yuridia dropped out of school when she was 13 but got a GED at the age of 18 because she wanted to go to college. Her husband encouraged her to apply because he knew her dream of getting a college education. She only applied to the one school in the community where she lived and worked. Yuridia was married with four kids, so choosing a college where she would have to relocate was not an option.

Yuridia had no idea that she could receive financial aid to go to college, because she had not been to high school or heard about it in college until after her first year. As soon as she found out, she filled out the federal financial aid application (FAFSA) and applied for as many public and private scholarships as she could find. She received some grants as well as loans (subsidized as well as private loans) to pay for college.

Carolina immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 10 with her mother and younger brother, and attended a private high school on a need-based scholarship, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She was 21, single, bilingual, and lived with her family. Carolina enrolled full-time at a community college, commuted to school, and worked part-time. Her mother had some college education (although not a degree) and their family income was between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.

Carolina saw the following options to pay for college: take on a $10,000 debt each year to go to a university or go to the local community college as part of an honors program. She chose to go to the community college because it offered her more financial aid and exposure to a strong academic program and activities with a cohort of students. She planned to transfer to a university. While the university did not offer as much financial aid as when she was at the community college, she still thought the costs were worth it. She saved “tons of money” going to community college that she could then spend to attend the institution she transferred to. She did not have any loans (only scholarships and grants), but expected to take out a loan for her junior year at the university and hoped it would be through the school and not a private loan because she knew that interest rates were “crazy” high.

Steven was a single 25-year-old male of Mexican descent in South Texas. He was a second-generation U.S. citizen, English was his primary language, and he worked part-time. Steve attended a public university, lived off-campus, and was a “returning” student (re-enrolled after he had stopped taking classes for a while). His family’s annual income was less than $40,000 a year, and his parents each had a bachelor’s degree.

His brother went to a selective university and amassed huge debts because his parents could not help pay for college. Given that example, Steve decided he would join the military to help pay for his college education. He had a very specific three-year plan to complete his education with funds earned through the GI Bill, private scholarships, money he earned as a substitute teacher and work-study, and a small amount in loans. Despite his aversion to borrowing, he thought the loans were worthwhile because they allowed him to complete his degree more quickly and offset the cost of an additional fourth year in college.

Mynor was a single 23-year-old male born in Guatemala. He enrolled at a private university in Texas, worked part-time, and lived off-campus. His parents’ highest educational attainment was a high school education or less (no college education) and their family income was less than $40,000 a year.

Mynor wanted to stay close to home. He applied to other colleges for an ego boost, but he planned all along to stay close to home. Mynor played soccer in high school and wanted to continue playing, so when a nearby college offered support and a spot on the team, he chose that institution. Upon reflection, he sort of regretted staying so close to his family. He had other options and with financial aid could have gone elsewhere and been exposed to even more opportunities. Mynor’s parents were not involved in the college selection process, but were supportive of his college goals. His parents expected he would do the work to choose a college and get in, and he felt that was one less thing for them to worry about.

Mynor had enrolled in the AVID program (college prep), where he learned about colleges. He also did campus tours and received help with the college application process. Further, he became best friends with his high school counselor by continually pressing for information. When it came to deciding on a major of study, Mynor looked into disciplines that would get him money. He knew someone with a degree in philosophy that was unemployed and he did not want that for himself, so he decided to study business.

To download the complete white paper, “Using A Latino Lens To Reimagine Aid Design And Delivery,” visit: http://edexcelencia.org

Excelencia in Education is a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.


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