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San Jose Mercury News: San Jose Conference Held to Boost Latino College Graduation

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News March 15, 2014.

By Steve Johnson

SAN JOSE — Joining hundreds of other Latinos, Robert and Robyn Rodriguez hustled through San Jose State‘s sprawling campus early Saturday morning with their 10-year-old son, Ceasar, so they could find a seat at a conference intended to boost Latino college attendance and graduation rates.

Ceasar, a student at Horace Mann Elementary in San Jose, is doing well in school. He said he wants a college degree “to get a good job.” And his parents share his enthusiasm.

Noting that neither he nor his wife went to college, Robert Rodriguez said, “We’re real excited about him having a chance.”

Latinos make up 38 percent of California’s population and are expected this year to surpass non-Hispanic whites as the state’s biggest ethnic or racial group, yet they lag worrisomely behind many other racial and ethnic groups in higher education.

Although seven out of 10 Latino high school graduates enroll in college, according to the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity, they are less likely than whites and people of Asian descent to get into top schools, attend full time and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Indeed, a 2011 study by the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley found that just 14 percent of local Latinos have a bachelor’s degree compared with 52 percent of non-Latinos.

That’s a costly educational gap. By some estimates, people with college degrees over their lifetimes on average earn at least $1 million more than those with just a high-school diploma.

“Education offers a golden opportunity for each and every one of you,” San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi told the crowd at the university’s event center. “Education is the passport for your future.”

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