Latinos struggle to graduate

Latino students are struggling to complete community college and move on to a university, reports the Long Beach Press-Telegram. While more students are enrolling, it’s taking longer to graduate — or not.

Gerardo Raya enrolled in college in 2008 with the hopes of graduating in four years and scoring a job as an animator or illustrator.

But four years later, Raya is still at Long Beach City College struggling to finish the minimal coursework he needs to transfer to a four-year university.

The 24-year-old said he’s had trouble balancing his work as a recreational aide for a local high school while trying to study for a full load of classes. He’s had to drop classes over the years due to work conflicts and financial problems, but Raya said he’s hopeful he can transfer to Cal State Long Beach next year.

Raya is not alone. The college transfer rate for Latino students is about half that of white students — 14 percent compared with 28 percent — according to the Campaign for College Opportunity, based in California. Only 20 percent of Latino students in community college complete an associate degree or transfer after six years, compared to 37 percent of whites.

“Over half of the children in public schools are Latino, and these are the people who are going to make up our future workforce,” said Michele Siqueiros, the campaign’s executive director.

A grant from the Lumina Foundation is helping funding LBCC’s Promise Pathways Initiative, which starts in the fall. The college is working with Long Beach Unified, which is now 64 percent Latino, to “align college and high school courses, establish assessments and early interventions, and encourage more students to take transfer-level courses in math and English in their first semester,” reports the Press-Telegram. LBCC already partners with the school district and Cal State Long Beach to offer the College Promise, which includes a free first semester at LBCC.

Why do so few Latinos graduate?  Blogger Donald Douglas, a political science professor at LBCC, blames weak K-12 preparation and work habits. “Top that off with a lot of kids coming from recent immigrant families, often the first in their family to attend college (and there’s less linguistic and knowledge-based support in the home environment), and the basic foundation of learning isn’t as strong as it might be in other demographics.”

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