Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Community College Challenges Explored at Civil Rights Conference

The ongoing issues Latino students face in community colleges was the focus of a town hall meeting held earlier this month Phoenix, Arizona, during the annual conference this week of the largest Latino civil right organization in the U.S.

While more Hispanic students are graduating high school and enrolling in college, many still need remediation or are taking longer than the standard two years to earn an associate’s degree.

The National Council of La Raza, which announced Monday that it was changing its name to UnidosUS, hosted the town hall to discuss the successes and struggles of Latino community college students, said Peggy McLeod, the deputy vice president of education and workforce development for Unidos US.

The latest data available shows that in 2014, 56 percent of Hispanic undergraduates were enrolled in community colleges, according to the Community College Research Center based at Teachers College at Columbia University.

“Why do we find it acceptable that most students who go to community college never get out in two years?” panelist Michele Siqueiros said during the meeting, according to a tweet from UnidosUS. Siqueiros is the president of the Los Angeles Office of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit organization.

“We know that students getting C’s or below in general ed courses are likely to drop out by their third year,” tweeted Daniel Greenstein, the director for postsecondary education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who also spoke on the panel. (The Gates Foundation provides funding to the Education Writers Association.)

Juan Salgado, the new Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, expressed the need for clear pathways for Latino students and ensuring they are enrolled in the right programs to meet the workforce demand. Salgado was appointed on May 1 to his post at the organization, the largest community college system in Illinois.

Here’s a quick sampling of other issues and developments that arose at the conference:

  • A panel on the economy noted that just over 25 percent of K-12 public school students in the U.S. are Latinos. Peggy McLeod of UnidosUS said in an interview that the effective education of Latinos is crucial to help the nation’s economy thrive. “It’s a demographic imperative,” McLeod said.
  • Maria Harper-Marinick, the chancellor at Maricopa Community College in Arizona, who spoke at a brunch meeting, tweeted: ”Let’s fight intolerance, disrespect, ignorance and hatred. We have a voice and we are ready to courageously use that voice to fight for what is right.”
  • The KIPP schools network sent a 14-person delegation to the conference, including co-founder Mike Feinberg. In the 2016-17 school year, KIPP operated 200 schools nationwide, educating more than 80,000 students. Over 31,000 (about 39 percent) of the students enrolled in a KIPP school last year were Latinos.