Latinx Heritage Month takes place from September 15th to October 15th every year. We wish to celebrate the rich history, contributions, and diverse cultures that exist within the Latinx umbrella while also pointing to the structural inequalities that exist within the higher education system. By shining a light on the present disparities that exist, we hope to encourage awareness and reconstruction of this system. EdTrust, with their newly released report, highlights critical obstacles Latinx people are facing in their quest for upward mobility through obtaining higher education degrees.
EdTrust’s conclusion is clear: “Latinx people are grossly underrepresented among undergraduates and degree earners. These disparities are direct results of structural racism and injustices throughout the education pipeline.”
Aware of the obstacles that Latinx students must overcome, we, at Hildreth Institute, thought it essential to amplify the stories of Latinx students this September. For as we know, identity has a significant impact on one’s college experience and more specifically, the way one finances their college degree. Armando, a UMass Boston alum, immigrated to Massachusetts from Lima, Peru when he was six; his family came to provide better opportunity and quality education for Armando. Armando championed the obstacles that challenge Latinx students and graduated with a BA degree. For all his success, he faces “a mountain of debt… [realizing that] student debt repayment is an uphill journey and that a five-year education has quickly turned into a potential decade long dray on [his] life choices.”
Massachusetts is home to a large number of Latinx residents, like Armando’s family. Who accounts for about 15% of the entire state’s population, yet there exist many alarming trends here in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth received an “A-” for Latinx representation within their student population at community and technical colleges; however, Latinx students are still grossly underrepresented at public four-year institutions. Massachusetts is among the five states where the gap between the shares of Latinx and white undergraduates at selective public institutions exceeds ten percentage points.
In terms of degree attainment: only 24.6% of Massachusetts Latinx adults have a college degree, compared to 57.4% of their white counterparts. Therefore, our state has the 4th highest attainment gap in the nation after California, Colorado, and Nebraska (see graphic below). EdTrust also awarded an “F” to Massachusetts in Latinx representation among Bachelor’s degree earners (only 7.6% of Bachelor’s degree earners are Latinx). Our state received another “F” as Massachusetts has the third-highest gap between the shares of Latinx and white graduates earning Bachelor’s degrees. 58.5% of white certificate and degree earners obtained Bachelor’s degrees, this is only true for 42.1% of Latinx people, a gap of 16.4%.
We must restore the promise that higher education is an engine of upward mobility for all. A lot of work lies ahead of us, here in Massachusetts, and nationally to ensure that those who need a degree the most have access and opportunity to complete their higher education.