To the Editor:
I was pleased to see your story focused on Latino high school students’ choices after graduation, and that it highlighted the complexity of gaining admission into and financing a bachelor’s-degree program (“Latino Students Less Likely to Select Four-Year Colleges,” Aug. 11, 2010).
It is true that even when they graduate from high school academically prepared for a four-year undergraduate program, many Latino students choose to enroll in community colleges instead. One student quoted in your article recalls that she went against the expectations of “a lot of people” by pursuing a four-year program. Such expectations are all too prevalent, and any programs designed to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college graduates must address this thorny issue.
One approach is to begin talking to students and parents about college early, before they incorporate any beliefs about who can go to which types of schools. We have been working not with high schools, but with middle schools to spark conversation about these issues. Educators organize informational sessions and campus tours for their 11- to 13-year-old students. As the kids visit different kinds of colleges, they consider the merits of each institution.
For some, community college may well end up being the right choice. But let’s be wary of making it the default option for any group, simply because they lack information about what else is possible.
Amy Aparicio Clark
PALMS (Postsecondary Access for Latino Middle-Grades Students) Project
Education Development Center
A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 2010 edition of Education Week as Improving Expectations for Latino College Students