The Secretary of Education shared his broad ideas for helping support the retention of Latino students in higher education earlier this week. Duncan spoke at the 15th Annual National Capitol forum on Hispanic Higher Education on Monday about the need to increase enrollment and college graduation rates of Latino students.
His remarks come on the heels of a new report from the research group American Enterprise Institute, that said that 51 percent of Latino students who start college graduate within six years, behind 59 percent graduation rate for white students.
The report showed that different colleges have varying degrees of success with graduating Latino students, which is a reflection, the study’s authors say, of each institution’s commitment to supporting students of color through school.
Duncan’s plan involves a combination of helping with financial aid—an accomplishment his department can already claim after the monumental victory of the passage of the Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act—and revamping high school curriculum. Duncan also says the success of Latino students in higher education is dependent on the presence of Latino educators in the classroom.
Latino students are more likely to face structural barriers to getting into and staying in school. Students of color come from disproportionately lower-income neighborhoods, where the most underfunded schools are concentrated. And even if they do get to college, students of color are more likely to drop out because of the high costs of tuition. A full 49 percent of Latino students delay or don’t attend college because of the high cost of student loans.
What remains to be seen is whether Duncan’s broader education reform, which includes the competitive Race to the Top grants, the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and strong support for charter schools, will actually serve the students of color that Duncan wants to support.