Arizona Education: Latino College Success

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We will discuss efforts to improve Latino college success, including a look at College Success Arizona, a program that helps Latinos graduate. Discussing the issue will be Dr. Delia Saenz, an Arizona State University Associate Professor of Psychology and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, David Adame, Chief Economic Development Officer of Chicanos Por La Causa, and Maria Harper-Marinick, executive vice president, chancellor and provost for the Maricopa County Community College District.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Education" looks at how for many Arizona Latinos college students in our state the dream of graduating is just that, a dream. We're here to talk about a group called "College Success Arizona" that looks to improve rates for Latinos.

Shana Fischer: Brenda Mendez is a perfect example of what hard work and perseverance can achieve.
Brenda Mendez: Financially it's been tough not having someone to look up to, to be the first to do -- go to college. Being the first to start your own business, being the first in a lot of things and also the youngest as well.

Shana Fischer: Despite graduating high school with straight As and a full-ride scholarship to ASU Brenda knew she needed extra help. She got that from "College Success Arizona."

Rich Nickel: A lot of people don't realize just because have you funding for school doesn't mean you're going to graduate.

Rich Nickel is "College Success Arizona" CEO, a foundation that provides scholarships and mentoring. Brenda's mentor was Mona Kordenios. She provides support and was terrific sounding board when Brenda decided to graduate college a year early.

Brenda Mendez: The most important component was the mentorship. A lot of my friends had the financial support but did not have the mentorship component.

Shana Fischer: "College Success Arizona" mentors handle about 100 students apiece. They help mentees find resources on campus creating educational plans and preparing to find jobs. Nickel said that creating opportunities for Latinos students like Brenda is crucial for Arizona.
Rich Nickel: Unfortunately the attainment rate for the Latino population here is only about 17%. So in 30 years we're going to have a demographic that is going to be the majority here, they are going to be asked to run this state and to lead us and make our economy better. If they are underrepresented, undereducated right now, that really leads to a path we probably don't want to go. We have to focus on expanding Latino higher education, cutting the attainment gap.

Shana Fischer: Nickel added that raising the rate will put Arizona into the spotlight with businesses.

Rich Nickel: When you take a regional picture of states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, their attainment rates are higher and their poverty levels are lower. You can draw a really straight line between those two.

Shana Fischer: Brenda graduated in 2014 with a degree in accounting. She was recruited by the number one accounting firm in the world but she took a risk and joined her boyfriend to run their highly successful internet company. Brenda says it's all been worth it because of a single moment.

Brenda Mendez: The best day for me would be walking across stage at my Arizona State University graduation, getting the diploma in my hand and walking downstage and looking at my mother. Seeing her face. I've seen her face and seen her smile, and being able to repay all the sacrifices she did.

Ted Simons: Going college also means more income for graduates. Studies show skipping a degree can cost half million in wages over a lifetime. Here now to discuss Latino college success is Dr. Delia Saenz, an USA associate professors of psychology, David Adame. And CEO of Chicanos por la Causa, he and Maria Harper-Marinick, Chancellor of Maricopa Community College District. Good to have all of you.

Ted Simons: College Success Arizona. Give us a better definition of what we're talking about here.

Delia Saenz: Really fulfilling the potential of many of our young people coming up through the pipeline. It means really capitalizing on their motivation to succeed, the talent they have, and finding ways to be successful in their degrees and then into the workforce.

Ted Simons: I saw quit lack of success not due to ideology or ethnicity? What does it mean?

Davis Adams: Not, absolutely. We all have an opportunity to have good education. If we provide the resources and tools that anybody would need, a fair playing field. I am talking about University of Arizona and healthcare field. A lot of times the children that go through the process don't get access to internships or exposure to clinics and things that would make them a better candidate. It's beyond just the educational part. We have kids that can compete with anybody in the world. It's a matter of giving resources and tools to different experiences.

Ted Simons: Compare improving access to improving graduation rates.

Maria Harper-Marinick: I think they go hand in hand obviously. We can't ignore the fact that college has become more costly for students. So while we worry about graduation rates and more students completing a college degree, I should say it's much needed for a good-paying job, we can't ignore what's going on with access to our public education institutions. We need affordability, we need to have the level to support that David mentioned and at the same time as Delia said, provide all of the support services and all the pathways to help those students who are coming to college, to have some motivation already, stay in college, complete the courses and complete their degrees and get on the path for successful employment.

Ted Simons: The largest college completion gap seems to be between Latinos and white students. What's the reason here?

Delia Saenz: It's a very complex question. What we have seen for example at ASU, when he we look at first-year retention, that is a significant marker of potential success to graduation, Latino students do as well if not better than the overall population. However, it's still an additional three to four years. If we go on the six-year trajectory it's five years to the point of graduation. During that time tuition costs go up. There are needs to create partnerships with community agencies as well as potential employers. And that's I think where exit points appear for Latino students, particularly around finances.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Delia Saenz: So it's not a matter of talent or motivation, it's a matter of creating a system that supports that facilitated success.

Ted Simons: It seems, as well, I've read about a lack of experiences and resources, lack of information a lot of the kids are the first in their families to go to college.

Davis Adams: Absolutely. I'm a perfect example. I grew up in Central Phoenix in the shadows of the buildings. Our house was part of some development that was going on. I moved to the Paradise Valley School District. I went to a school that was primarily white. I was one of a handful of people of color at the school. When I made friends I went to the dinner table when friend invited and met their parents. They weren't discussing whether their children would go to college, it was which college. They were able to give me guidance and those types of things. We work on a continuum from birth to sending college, we have to give different programs. There's training for parents to understand how to navigate the systems. School choices is a big thing. I personally changes school for my daughters three times. I went from public to charger to private Christian schools to make sure I finally got into the school I knew was going provide the right education and direction for my children to succeed.

Ted Simons: Joining parents was an interesting idea, an interesting except. What do families need to know when that first kid in college is in college?

Maria Harper-Marinick: They need to know many things. One important part, financially where are the resources to support the students? They need to know the expectations in high schools are not the expectations in college. You need to develop that independence of work. And they need to understand that going college it's important to maintaining that momentum. We have a lot of students who need to come part time. I usually tell them if you have to cut back, at least take one course. It's really hard if you totally step out to come back. Maintain a little bit of that momentum, that's important. All of the faculty and advisors and all of the personnel at the colleges are willing to help, do not be afraid to ask questions or reach out. Do not be afraid to ask for mentors or tutoring. Many times the parents don't know that. We're making sure all of that information is readily available in many forms, including Spanish, English, internet and print. Because we want to empower 'well, the entire family, too, to actually get the right level of information. As when you've never gone through college you may not know what to ask.

Ted Simons: Indeed. We talk about the families, expectations I'm sure are there. Are there realistic expectations on both level's, maybe expecting too much from the kid? Maybe not expecting enough because, again, there's a lack of experience there.

Delia Saenz: I think what we understand from Latino families, the concept of family is very important. It's a network efforts to put forward for the child to proceed through the education system. We need do as much as we can to educate the families as Maria said through social service agencies, through churches, through public announcements on TV. And help them to understand what is this college experience about? What can you do to help your child go through? And what's expected of them? One of the things we'd like to emphasize is that dialogues about the importance of higher education start very early and continue on even in college. When parents may not realize what experience for the child is gonna to be it's important for parents to maintain that level of conversation because a child may feel isolated being in college, it's a new experience. They may feel even greater isolation if we don't have the opportunity to discuss what's happening with their family.

Maria Harper-Marinick: Those expectations needs to start early on in the early grades. One of the main factors for students not staying in college they come in with inadequate academic preparation. That strong academic foundation should be in place from the moment students are going to school. Making sure they understand that's important.

Davis Adams: For me the critical ness, right now some of the factoids, right, looking at the kindergarten population in the state, 64% Latinos. In another 13 years they will be voting, in our workforce and contribute to get Social Security system and other things. It's important to our society in general that no matter who it is, whether it's Latinos or any other race that, we need to be investing in education of our children in order for this state to compete at the national and global level.

Ted Simons: What do you tell policymakers?

Delia Saenz: Consistently David's message, I would tell policymakers and everyone on the street, if we are worried about our country's financial resources going to programs like welfare or other social services. The answer to that is really to create a workforce that is self-sustaining. We can only do that if we invest in education from the outset and build in the programs that allow students, irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, whatever dimension, to succeed to build on their successes. We're all in this together. When we empower children to succeed, it really is beneficial to the society as a whole.

Ted Simons: All right, great conversation, good to have you all here. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon" we'll try to figure out what happened to this winter's forecast for above average he will Nino rains. And it's the latest science news with renowned ASU physicist Lawrence Kraus, 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That's it for now, I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening. Captioning Performed By LNS Captioning

Dr. Delia Saenz:Associate Professor of Psychology and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Arizona State University; David Adame:Chief Economic Development Officer, Chicanos Por La Causa; Maria Harper-Marinick:Executive Vice President, Chancellor and Provost, Maricopa County Community College District;

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