SAN FRANCISCO In an effort to reverse the continuing trend of Latino under-representation in state colleges and universities, leaders of the Hispanic community held a special convocation at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Hotel.
The conference marked the first time in almost a decade that state, congressional, and education leaders, as well as students, meet in one place to discuss the problems facing the disproportionate rate of Latino student enrollment in institutions of higher learning. The goal is to chart the political, policy, and collective action required in the next decade to provide educational parity for the community.
“This is not a Latino issue, but a California issue,” said Cruz Reynoso, the first Latino to serve in the California Supreme Court and a law professor at UC Davis. “We are talking about the future of our state. These are California’s children who happen to be Latino, and those issues need to be front and center.”
Topics of discussion included leakages in the education pipeline, undocumented students, the effects of Affirmative Action and Proposition 187, student leadership, retention, transfer from community colleges, faculty representation, higher education leadership, access to financial aid, issues of selectivity, and access to graduate schools.
“Every single student has the right to obtain a good education. The state has miserably failed to meet its obligation to equally train and teach the youngsters in California,” said Reynoso.
The Convocation’s focus was the discussion of the Master Plan of Education, drafted in the 1960’s, with the intent of giving students in California from all walks of life an equal opportunity at obtaining an affordable education. Then, the Master Plan required the UC and CSU systems to accept into their institutions the top tiers of the state’s high school graduates.
With huge budget deficits, tuition hikes, proposed cuts, and inadequate academic preparation in grades K-12, the fulfillment of the Master Plan has all but disintegrated. For the first time, students were turned away from two- and four-year institutions of higher learning last year.
“Every student deserves the chance to go to college, but unfortunately too many young Latinos are denied this dream because they can’t afford to pay for it. We must build awareness about the educational opportunities, improve access to higher education and support increased federal funding for financial aid programs and other programs that make college affordable,” said Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis (CA-32).
“All we know is that the numbers are far fewer than they should be. College has become less accessible and less affordable, and students aren’t being prepared when they go to public schools. It’s a huge problem,” added Dr. David León, head of the Chicano Studies Program at California State University in Sacramento.
The average tuition cost at the UC system for an undergraduate student is estimated to be $6,769. At the CSU system, that cost is an average of $2,916.
The Master Plan, currently under reconstruction by the Legislature, has not been altered since its original implementation in the 1960’s.
Research shows that Latinos saw their share of high school graduates increase from 29% in 1993, to 34% in 2002. And even though Latinos comprise the fastest growing racial group in California, in all three sectors of public higher education, they are underrepresented, with their enrollment share in 2002 reaching 27% at Community Colleges, 21% at the CSU system, and only 13% at the UC system. The percentage of Latino students in graduate programs is even lower.