An unfair College Fair

Dec. 14, 2006, midnight | By Ashley Lau | 14 years, 1 month ago

Recent National Hispanic College Fair presents limited options for Latino students

Last month, a group of Latino juniors and seniors boarded buses for the annual National Hispanic College Fair at Columbia Union College, expecting to learn about universities with special programs and scholarship opportunities for Hispanic students. Instead, they found a disappointing array of lower-tier trade schools, military organizations and community colleges.

In fact, the Latino community and the college fair were connected only by name, said College and Career Information Coordinator Carla Partlow. "There were no workshops, there wasn't a good selection - [the University of Maryland at] College Park didn't even show," she said.

In a school where 25 percent of the student body is Latino, accommodating the diverse ambitions of all Blair's Latino students should be a priority. It is essential that these students, as underrepresented minorities, be exposed to all their post-secondary options.

While the premise behind the National Hispanic College Fair, sponsored by the Career Council, Inc., is commendable, the caliber of schools represented at the fair makes an unfair assumption about the college and career aspirations of Latino students.

Many Latinos come to America with few resources and little education and, as a result, are forced to take menial jobs or enroll in trade schools. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2005, 21.9 percent of Latinos 16 years and older employed in part-time jobs did so for economic reasons, compared to only 10.6 percent of whites 16 years and older. But this does not mean that their children have no post-secondary aspirations - or worse, that they are not entitled to the same range of options as other students because they are being pigeonholed into stereotypically Latino jobs that don't require a college education.

According to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Congress, Latino enrollment in four-year colleges increased 29 percent from 1996 to 2001. Now, it's essential that this trend be met with a wider range of options that accommodate the growing number of high-achieving Latino students.

"They're always saying, 'We really want you to go to college, but if not - college is not for everyone,'" senior Braulio Salas said. "The administration should be pushing minorities to go to college. It's saying something about their expectations for Hispanic students."

Salas, who was disappointed by last year's fair, was one of many who opted not to go to this year's regional fair. "There weren't that many big universities [at the fair]," Salas said. "I was looking for four-year colleges, big names, like NYU, Rutgers, Miami - I was hoping to find some high-Hispanic-enrollment universities."

By offering Latino students a very limited range of post-secondary options, the fair slights those students hoping to attend higher-ranking schools. According to MCPS Schools At a Glance, 34.7 percent of Blair Latino students are enrolled in Honors or Advanced Placement classes. It's quite feasible for the college fair sponsors to ensure that larger universities are represented to meet the high ambitions of these students. In fact, many of the nation's top universities have minority-outreach programs that focus on recruitment of such students. But instead of showcasing such schools, according to Salas, every military organization had a stand at last year's fair. While the armed forces is an important option, it's equally important to provide a variety of higher-education opportunities.

But according to Partlow, the college fair failed to provide a complete list of all institutions appearing at the fair, deterring many students from attending. According to senior Hector Perez, one of only 11 Blazers who attended this year's fair, besides the limited variety of schools represented, the fair also lacked motivational enthusiasm to engage the students in the college process. "No one was really pulling you in, saying 'Come check out our school,'" said Perez.

Compared to the Montgomery County College Fair, which hosted a more diverse selection of schools, Salas says the difference between the two fairs was "like night and day." According to Salas, "there were at least 200 schools at the College Expo. [The Latino College Fair] was disappointing. There were [less than] 50 colleges in a space the size of the 210s hallway."

It is unfortunate and unacceptable that one of the largest Latino college fairs - drawing over 1,500 students from the Washington, D.C., area, according to a Columbia Union College news release - did not host more four-year colleges. According to the Student Aid Act of 2006, the unemployment rate for Latino high school graduates is 30 percent higher than for Latino college graduates, evidence that a solid education really does count.

It is the responsibility of secondary schools and college fair organizers to give ambitious Latino students the opportunity to step out of their stereotypes and take advantage of all possible opportunities for a higher education.

Ashley Lau. Born in Boston, Ashley is a huge Red Sox fan and sometimes wishes she could just live at Fenway Park. She loves to run, do tae kwon do, travel, cook, go to concerts and has a new obsession with the TV show 24. Someday Ashley … More »

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