Community-College leaders urged to step up outreach efforts to Hispanic-Americans

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Oct 1 15:02:45 UTC 2007


Monday, October 1, 2007

Community-College Leaders Are Urged to Step Up Outreach Efforts to

By ELYSE ASHBURN <elyse.ashburn at>

San Diego

College leaders are mistaken if they believe that cultural differences make
Hispanic high-school students, especially recent immigrants, less likely to
attend college than their white counterparts, the president of the Tomás
Rivera Policy Institute told community-college trustees and presidents on
Friday. "It is not culture but cognition -- a lack of understanding of the
American education system on the part of parents that are foreign born,"
said Harry P. Pachon, who is both a professor of public policy at the
University of Southern California and head of the institute, a nonprofit
research group that focuses on issues affecting Hispanic communities.

Mr. Pachon said financial-aid programs in the United States were
particularly difficult for Hispanic families to understand. For example,
there is no Spanish word for "grant." To bridge that linguistic gap, Mr.
Pachon said many colleges refer to grants as "dinero gratis," or free money.
While that sounds like an appealing offer, the term doesn't quite capture
the American concept of a financial-aid grant. Mr. Pachon was the day's
keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Association of Community
College Trustees here. Several hundred college leaders gathered to hear him

He cautioned them that many myths about Hispanic people in the United States
-- including the notion that they are largely undocumented, prefer to speak
only Spanish, and are almost entirely low-income -- persist in the popular
imagination. Those stereotypes are not supported by research, he said. The
Hispanic population is growing rapidly in the United States, in large part
because of legal immigration and because the Hispanic birth rate in the
country outstrips that of white Americans.

To reach this growing pool of potential students, Mr. Pachon said, colleges
must produce marketing materials in Spanish, employ bilingual staff and
faculty members, and market aggressively to Hispanic-Americans through the
Internet, Spanish- and English-language television, and other outreach

The overall college-going rate in the United States -- and the country's
economic health -- is at stake, Mr. Pachon said. "Latino education is not a
Latino issue," he said. "It's an American issue."

Earlier in the day, at another session, several trustees outlined ways that
Palomar Community College District and Mira Costa College, both in northern
San Diego County, were working to improve the educational outlook for
Hispanic boys.

Trustees at those colleges said they became alarmed four years ago when they
realized that, at some high schools, 50 percent or more of Hispanic boys
were dropping out. "We can't afford to let that continue," said Mark R.
Evilsizer, a member of the Palomar district's Governing Board.

The colleges started a nonprofit group called Encuentros: Hombre a Hombre,
which is Spanish for "coming together, man to man," to deal with the dropout
problem. The group puts on a career and education conference for about 500
Hispanic boys each year, and holds a smaller leadership academy through a
partnership with California State University at San Marcos.

But the most potentially wide-reaching project is a high-school and
middle-school curriculum that the colleges developed in conjunction with a
local school district. The courses, based on a book that is also
called *Encuentros:
Hombre a Hombre,* will be geared toward boys and will teach Hispanic culture
and history. The high-school course is expected to satisfy a language-arts
requirement needed to matriculate at public universities in the state.

The curriculum is awaiting final state approval, but one middle-school
teacher already incorporated parts of it into one of his courses. The
results were promising. The boys' grade-point averages climbed from an
average of 2.19 to 2.61 after taking the course, and their disciplinary
referrals dropped markedly.

Mr. Evilsizer, of Palomar, said the curriculum would allow Encuentros to
reach many more Hispanic boys than the group can through the conference and
the summer institute. "I think our impact is going to be greatest here," he
said. "As trustees, this is something we can do. We can broker partnerships
within our community."


Harold F. Schiffman

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at

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