On Oct. 20, Latino elected officials and University of Texas at Arlington professors explored the sociological barriers that keep Latinos from entering and succeeding in college. 

The panel, hosted by the Center for Mexican American Studies at UTA, provided a space for Latinos to talk about obstacles for higher education enrollment and the reasons why few Latino students graduate with higher education certificates. A 2020 study found that while Latinos are the second largest racial group in the country, they have the lowest college attainment rates. 

Panel participants HD-105 Rep. Terry Meza, HD-102 Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, HD-90 Rep. Ramon Romero, HD-103 Rep. Rafael Anchia, Center for Mexican American Studies Director Xavier Medina-Vidal, Maria Yareli Delgado of the Hispanic Serving Leadership Program at UTA and Adrian Huerta, a tenure-track faculty member at the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California, and Francisco de la Torre Galindo, the Consul General of Mexico in Dallas, discussed the issues.

Huerta pointed to challenges in California, where he said underfunding of community colleges has led to steep gaps for Latino men. 

“They have not enough funding, not enough classes, not enough infrastructure to support college persistence and degree completion. So, this is a really serious issue,” Huerta said. “Latino boys want to be somebody. And they want to be somebody by getting a college degree.” 

The panel discussed Latino representation in higher education, or the lack there-of. One 2019 study found that only 6.6% of faculty members at bachelor’s institutions were Hispanic or Latino. At the doctoral level, that figure dropped to 4.6%. 

The chances of a Latino student being taught by a Latino tenure-professor is very small, Delgado said.

“We need to increase those faculty members that are Latinos in the state of Texas and in the country, for that matter,” Delgado said. “We need to work on creating policies to increase Latino faculty in universities.”

Delgado also spoke on the dangers of not having intentionality at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. She said these institutions must not be satisfied with lackluster enrollment and graduation rates, but intentionally work to strive for exemplary statistics.

What is a Hispanic-Serving Institution?

A Hispanic-Serving Institution is defined as an institution of higher education that 

  • is an eligible institution; and
  • has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students at the end of the award year immediately preceding the date of application

Source: U.S. Department of Education

“We have to make sure we provide all the resources for our students to get their degrees,” Delgado said. “There’s a lot of things that legislators can do. Continue funding Latinos. It is very important that y’all write policies to increase dual language programs in this state.”

UTA President Jennifer Cowley said the university has a lot to celebrate when it comes to Latino and Latina student success and enrollment, but there is a lot of work to be done on the institutional and state levels. 

“We know that there is much work to be done as Texas continues to transform in terms of the makeup of the population. Institutions like UTA have a responsibility to transform, right alongside our state, and make sure that we are supporting students in going to college, being successful in college and going on to pursue their dreams,” Cowley said.

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSotoCommunity Engagement Journalist

Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...