by Orlando Rodriguez
A college degree is important, but how you obtain the degree should be a central consideration for many Latinos. Americans are encouraged to attend a four-year university such as State U, or for the truly gullible an Ivy League school. The refrain is heard over and over: “Go to college. Get a degree. Make lots of money.” Ask an unemployed college graduate with a freshly printed degree from a four?year university if they would do it again. Higher education is important, but so is ensuring that the time, money, and emotional commitment you dedicate result in tangible employment opportunities.
The traditional approach of devoting four or more years of a young adult’s life to college arose from high?income families who could afford to both, send their children to school and, not need their offspring to work to support the family. Neither is true for many Latino families. While scholarships can make college possible for low-income Latino families, it does not offset the loss of family income when a child leaves for several years to focus on learning – and partying. Low-income families need the additional income from their working offspring, and their children know this. It is not a coincidence that dropout rates are high among Latino college enrollees.
The State of Florida is among seventeen states offering an alternative to the traditional four-year university that makes a whole lot of sense for many Latino families. In Florida, you can obtain a four?year bachelor’s degree at a local community college. The program has been highly successful because higher education and business work toward a common goal – getting people working. These bachelor’s degrees are limited to careers in which there is a need for workers such as nursing, public safety, and biomedical sciences. Contrary to common perceptions, graduates with a bachelor’s degree from a community college often have higher rates of employment and earn higher salaries than graduates from four-year universities.
As you might expect, traditional four-year institutions do not want four-year degrees offered at community colleges. State U fears a decline in the number of students enrolling in traditional universities. Maybe yes, maybe no – it depends. Certainly, we would expect to see a decline in Latino dropout rates in universities as Latinos opt for more flexible community college programs. Furthermore, community college programs attract Latinos who could never attend a traditional university. The most important consideration should be that offering bachelor’s degrees at community colleges will raise educational attainment, and income, among Latinos.
Community colleges offer an education that is closer to home, costs less, and allows students to continue working at least part-time. This is a realistic, and economically preferable, alternative for many Latino families. Maybe, this will also force traditional four-year universities to take a real-world look at their programs and stop graduating so many college-debt-ridden burger-flippers and restaurant servers.
To learn more about Orlando, visit his Bio Page.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.