By Nichole M. Garcia
Latinx communities are the future of our nation’s economic competitiveness and workforce, yet, they have the lowest education attainment level of any racial or ethnic group in the United States across secondary and post-secondary institutions.
Recent global crises such as COVID-19, racial unrest in reaction to anti-Blackness, racist discourses and rescinded policies protecting undocumented communities, and student debt have created unsafe and dangerous conditions for Latinx students in higher education.
These disparities have only widened preexisting opportunity gaps in secondary and post-secondary education. Latinx Heritage Month is a time to acknowledge, reflect, and take action against inequities that perpetually exist for Latinx communities across the country, especially in our educational systems.
We are in unprecedented times in higher education, where it is time to rethink and reimagine how we define and approach Latinx student success.
Traditionally, Latinx student success has been measured by standardized assessments and outcomes such as GPA, which are partial measures. We must ask ourselves, “how do we measure the unmeasurable?”
As we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, it is critical for institutions of higher education to be held accountable, acknowledge, and center on Latinx communities’ skills, abilities, and knowledge they consistently bring with them into these spaces. It is equally important not to assume that all Latinx communities’ sources of support or challenges are the same. Latinx sub-ethnic and racial groups are distinct and should be embraced and not commodified to a “one-size fits all” approach.
To rethink and reimagine success, a commitment to serving Latinx degree-seeking students starts with a shift in language from labeling “at-risk” to “at-promise” or “minorities” to “historically marginalized.”
When language shifts, Latinx students feel supported, connected, and transform how they think of themselves. While educational attainment is significant, it is imperative that Latinx students sustain their home and community practices in educational spaces. When culture is sustained, there is an opportunity to develop Latinx students holistically by meeting them where they are.
Society needs to unlearn what they have been taught about traditional measures of success so they can reimagine a better future for Latinx students. For Latinx communities, a college degree is not just a piece of paper, it is a communal effort. It is a labor of love at the hands of our ancestors, kin, and parents. It is a shared emotional moment of joy, which is beyond any institutional measure.
Nichole M. Garcia is an assistant professor of higher education at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and award-winning author of the book Studying Latinx/a/o Students in Higher Education: A Critical Analysis of Concepts, Theory, and Methodologies.
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This News is Published from Google Alert – Hispanic Heritage Month.