Why High-Achieving Hispanic Students Go to Hispanic U.: Report Sheds Light on Their Choice of Colleges

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Aug 17 13:13:34 UTC 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why High-Achieving Hispanic Students Go to Hispanic U.: Report Sheds Light
on Their Choice of Colleges

By ELYSE ASHBURN <elyse.ashburn at chronicle.com>

High-achieving Hispanic students often focus on location, cost, and campus
atmosphere, not prestige, in selecting their colleges, according to a report
due out today.

"The level of pragmatism these college students had in making decisions was
impressive," said Deborah A. Santiago, the report's author and vice
president for policy and research at *Excelencia* in Education, a nonprofit
policy group.

The report,<http://www.edexcelencia.org/pdf/ChoosingHSIsCloserLookFINAL.pdf>"Choosing
Hispanic-Serving Institutions: A Closer Look at Latino Students'
College Choices," is based on interviews with about 100 students and is not
nationally representative. But it provides a window on why Hispanic
undergraduates are heavily concentrated in the country's small cohort of
Hispanic-serving institutions.

In 2003-4 those institutions made up only 6
American colleges and universities, but served almost half of Hispanic

Hispanic-serving institutions tend to be located in areas with large
Hispanic populations, are relatively inexpensive, and often have open
admissions. That makes them an appealing option for Hispanic students, like
those Ms. Santiago interviewed, who want to attend universities that are
close to home, relatively cheap, and accessible.

However, students said they were not attracted by the Hispanic-serving
designation, and few even knew that the distinction existed. An institution
is classified as Hispanic-serving, under federal guidelines, if at least 25
percent of its students are Hispanic and 50 percent of those are from
low-income families.

The students interviewed for the report mostly received A's and B's in high
school, and now attend either Hispanic-serving or mainstream universities.
Many are the first in their families to go to college.

Flouting conventional wisdom, the students at Hispanic-serving universities
interviewed by Ms. Santiago often did not choose the most selective
institution that accepted them. Instead they were heavily influenced by the
sticker price of an education.

"A quote that really stuck with me, and we heard it over and over, was this
impression that, 'College is college, and as long as I'm motivated, I can
get a good education anywhere,'" Ms. Santiago said.

In contrast, Hispanic students at mainstream institutions were swayed by
academic reputation and were more likely to focus on financial-aid packages
than on the sticker price. Students at mainstream universities also were
more willing to take on debt.

While many Hispanic-serving institutions are excellent colleges, Ms.
Santiago said, higher-education officials must do a better job of making
sure Hispanic students consider the full range of options available to them.
In particular, prestigious institutions interested in attracting top
Hispanic students need to better explain financial-aid policies and improve



Harold F. Schiffman

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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