Do Hispanics Need More Higher Education Help? (Anyway, You`re Paying For It.)
Last week while I was researching my
“Immigrant Influx Now Threatening California`s Colleges,”
I stumbled upon the most amazing report issued by the
Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI).
According to the TRPI March 2004
study titled “Caught in the Financial Aid Information
word document] Hispanic high school students who
may be considering college and their parents are
“hampered” by lack of financial aid awareness.
The report whines that not enough
scholarship information is made available to
Hispanic families. Hence, Hispanics are denied a fair
shot at college, since they cannot
afford to attend without financial aid.
But as a
teacher in California`s
Lodi Unified School District, I say: bunk. This study
is such abject nonsense that it makes all the other tripe
that you have read about
barriers to Hispanic academic success look almost
Let`s begin at the beginning. The
Tomas Rivera Policy Institute has a very high opinion of
itself, that`s for sure. Affiliated with the University
of Southern California`s School of Policy, Planning and
Development and with Columbia University`s School of
Social and Economic Research and Policy, TRPI
claims to have “attained a reputation as the
`nation`s premier Latino think tank.`”
Maybe…considering the competition.
the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.] But no one
could ever prove it from this absurd collection of
findings. The report was commissioned by the
Sallie Mae Fund—an arm of the “Government
Sponsored Entity” that shovels out
taxpayer-subsidized loans, just like the
“Mortgage Monsters” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
It was based on telephone conversations with 1,200
Hispanic parents of 18-24 year-olds and a separate sample
of 1,200 Hispanic adults.
To avoid boring you to death, I`ll
- 75 percent of Hispanic college
“potentials” indicated that they would have been more
likely to attend if they have received “better
information on financial aid.”
- More than two thirds of Hispanic
parents and 56 percent of Hispanic college students did
not receive any financial aid information during the
- 43 percent of all Hispanic young
adults surveyed and 51% of Hispanic parents could
not name a single source of college financial aid.
- 51 percent of Hispanic parents
and 38% of Hispanic K-12 students would prefer to
receive all financial information in Spanish.
Here`s the rub: the data is totally
inconsistent with everything that I have personally
observed about Hispanic prospective college students and
their awareness of financial aid.
Graduating seniors know about every dime available to
them—right down to the $100 given by the local pizzeria
to the “Most Deserving Student.”
Think about it. High-school
counselors inundate deserving students with information.
Bulletin boards post
scholarship applications. Most school districts have
career centers that also push hard to get good kids into
Narrowing the search to “College
Scholarships +Hispanic” still returns 8,986 choices.
If a prospective college student
wants to research his scholarship options, a Google
search for “High School +Hispanic Scholarship” yields
College and university websites are
treasure troves of funding options. TRPI`s own partners,
Columbia, have links to financial aid information.
According to TRPI, only 13 percent
of parents and 15 percent of students want to access
financial aid data from the Internet. But even if that is
true, it doesn`t mean interested parties can`t go online
to get information—especially if, as the report claims,
it is unavailable elsewhere.
The TRPI would have us believe that
a significant percentage of qualified Hispanic high
school seniors never hear a peep from anyone—teachers,
counselors, administrators and peers—about financial aid.
And we are further expected to assume that in the
information age, few of those high school seniors would
consider doing an Internet search for scholarship
sources—including visiting the website of the college of
That`s a tough sell.
How could the august Tomas Rivera
Policy Institute with its “network of nationally
recognized scholars” go so far wrong?
- The only students who might be as
uninformed as the TRPI suggests would be
low performing students essentially disengaged in
the K-12 process. When the TRPI writes about a
“potential” college student, does it mean the
truly qualified? Or does “potential” include
the most marginal and struggling students who will be
lucky to graduate?
If the TRPI
includes the latter, then that kid may be under-informed.
But—and this is important—he could still easily access
financial aid information with a simple inquiry to his
counselor or by logging onto his computer.
- The TRPI methodology is badly
flawed. On behalf of the Sallie Mae Fund, Harris
Interactive telephoned parents using the Random Digit
Dial method. For the 18-24 populations, it used
targeted age sample. Take it from someone who has
telephoned parents and students in limited English
language homes, communication can be difficult—no
matter what language you are speaking in. Even when I
have used teaching aides fluent in the home language to
speak to parents, conveying a concern or extracting
information is extremely challenging.
But, flawed logic or not, the bottom
line is that we`re in for another dog and pony show. This
fall, the Sallie Mae Fund, having got what it paid for in
the form of further proof of the need for its existence,
will launch a nationwide 20-city
bus tour to host 135
“Paying for College” workshops. Forty of the sessions
will be in
And of course Sallie Mae will
distribute materials in Spanish to middle school and high
school teachers and guidance counselors about
scholarships. Remember that all this information is
already widely available from scores of sources.
Sallie Mae concludes its
“response” to the Harris Interactive findings with
this brazen statement:
“Encouragingly, nearly 90 percent of survey
respondents (Hispanics) indicated that a college
education is `very important` for success in today`s
world, as compared to 65 percent of all young adults,
according to the Harris Poll.”
And how can we reconcile this
alleged belief that education is “very important” with
the fact that even the better high school graduates, who
do attend college, need a shocking number of remedial
courses? Read my last column for the painful details.
As an educator, my naïve belief is
that when students think education is “very important,”
they prove it—by a] opening their textbooks and b]
That will get them further in life
than looking for the next free (i.e. taxpayer-funded)
lunch – even when it`s pressed on them by Treason Lobby
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.