A comprehensive report was released in April by The Campaign for College Opportunity entitled “The State of Higher Education In California – Latino Report.” According to the report, Latinos remain underrepresented in every segment of higher education when compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the state.
The state of California is home to approximately 38.5 million residents and stands as the most populous state in the nation. Among the population, 39 percent or roughly 15 million people, identify as Latino, giving them majority-minority status within the state.
Riverside County has the second highest Latino population behind Los Angeles County, with a concentrated population of 1,053,000 Latinos, 48.5 percent of the total.
The Latino population is expected to rise to an estimated 119 million by 2060, according to the U.S. census. Even with these large numbers, Latinos are still stymied in the areas of higher education enrollment and degree attainment. Only 12 percent of Latinos between the ages of 25 and 64 hold a baccalaureate degree or higher compared to 42 percent of Whites within the same age range.
Though the rates of high school completion have improved in the last two decades, going from 19 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2013 compared to the state average of 20 percent, is still a cause for concern in and around the echelons of higher education. In 2012-13, only three out of ten Latino graduates completed the A-G requirements, meaning that 141,000 Latino graduates were ineligible to apply to California’s public universities.
Concomitant with a high concentration of ineligibility for college enrollment, and despite the percentage of Latino students attending a public university in California doubling since 2004, the undergraduate admission rates across the UC system have fallen by 28 percent since 1994 with UCLA and UC Berkeley dropping even further by 46 and 45 percentage points respectively.
Latino undergraduate enrollment is mostly concentrated at UCR and UC Merced with 26 percent where there exist Latino populations of 32 and 45 percent respectively of the total student body. In addition, UCR was named a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2008 — which allows institutions to apply for grants that provide educational expansion to low-income Hispanic students — the first UC in the system to receive this title.
Proposition 209 is suggested as one of the causes for such low enrollment rates of Latinos. The proposition, opposed by pro-affirmative action advocacy groups, was introduced into California State Legislature in November of 1996 as an amendment to the state constitution and put in effect the prohibition of “state government institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in the areas of public employment, contracting and education.”
Even with the disparity in enrollment numbers, it would be illegal for college admissions boards to consider the ethnic or racial status of a Latino in their decisions, thereby mitigating the history of economic and educational disadvantage.
Robb Hernandez, professor of English with a concentration in Chicano visual culture, spoke about how the lack of diversity of faculty members, among other things like media depictions and geographical location, may also complicate educational environments for Latinos stating “In part some of it is when first generation students attend a university like UCR or even transfer in it’s quite a bit of a shock …. though there are other Latino bodies on campus we also don’t have a faculty body that is reflective of their experiences so it sort of creates, in part, difficulty.”
According to UCR-provided statistics, only 5.7 percent of faculty identify as Hispanic compared to 68.3 percent who identify as white.
The report dictates that “the future of our economy and the state will rise or fall on the educational success of Latinos.” This is a belief held by Arlene Cano, social and cultural programs coordinator of the Chicano Student Programs (CSP) at UC Riverside.
Cano stated, “I think when you look at the nation right now and the projected growth of Chicanos and Latinos, they’re becoming an increasing majority and…if you want to have a nation that is educated, an educated workforce, a workforce that is multiculturally competent… higher education is an important access tool. But it is also a tool for economic stability for familia.”