BY SOOJUNG CHANG
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 13, 2003
Business senior Becky Trevino is the first person from her family to go to college. In fact, she had to convince her parents to let her attend the University because they wanted her to go to a school closer to home like the University of Michigan at Dearborn or Wayne State University.
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In spite of this, Trevino said she has flourished at the University. One of the few Hispanics in the Business School, Trevino is also getting a double degree in the School of Engineering and is the president of Sigma Lambda Gamma, a Hispanic sorority.
According to a Monday article in the New York Times, Trevino is the exception rather than the rule among Hispanic students. A recent article cited a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that indicated only 16 percent of Hispanic high school graduates earn a four-year college degree by age 29.
In 2001, there were 1,034 Hispanic students enrolled in the undergraduate program at the University and the 2002 freshman class is 6.1 percent Hispanic.
The article cited several factors that experts say are responsible for the difficulties that Hispanic students face in higher education. They include language and culture barriers, financial problems, a lack of role models and inadequate preparation from schools. It also noted a cultural emphasis on extended family that causes many Hispanic students to forego attending college because they need to work and help support their families both financially and emotionally.
Trevino said family issues are often a major deterrent to pursuing higher education. "(My parents) had this big problem with me going away to school," she said. Trevino added that in her community, it was expected "that you stay home," especially for girls.
"I got this big uproar when I wanted to move 45 minutes from home," she said.
Donney Moroney, the Latino American coordinator for the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, said the article ignored other factors that create difficulties for Hispanic students, such as the number of Hispanics that go into the military, and the increased rate of young Hispanic men that go to jail.
"I think the issue is much deeper than how it was presented," Moroney said.
Moroney added that another study indicated that the percentage of Hispanics going into higher education has actually increased recently, mainly due to a rise in enrollment at two-year community colleges.
She said while the article focused on the fact that many Hispanics are not going to college and graduating, many Hispanic youth do not even graduate from high school.
"High school is not even an option because they have to start working to help support their families," she said.
Moroney said the MESA office focuses on retaining students once they are at the University through programs that aim to support students, while educating the University campus as a whole. She said the graduation rate for Hispanic students is lower than for most other ethnic groups. In 1995, 73 percent of Hispanic students graduated from the University, compared to 86 percent of white students.
While for some students, opposition from parents might have been a barrier to going on in school, some said an emphasis on education by their families was an important factor in their success.
"My mom had to drop out of school to work at a young age, so she wanted me to go to college," LSA junior Stephanie Rivera said, adding that she is the first person in her family to graduate from high school and to go to college.
Rivera said she knows a lot of people back home who were not allowed to go to college because they were supposed to stay with the family.
Engineering senior Ramon Martinez's parents are migrant farmers who originally felt higher education was unimportant. Now, six of Martinez' siblings have attended the University.
Martinez said his parents first realized the importance of getting an education when his older brother, now in law school, helped his parents buy a home.
Martinez said although it was difficult to excel academically because his family's migrant lifestyle caused him to switch schools often, he still managed to stay focused in school. His parents would let him take a break from working to do his homework.
"We grew up on th road pretty much. ... When you don't know anything else, it seems to be normal," he said. Martinez said his goal now is to get his parents out of the migrant life. Hispanic students to forego attending college because they need to work and help support their families both financially and emotionally.