Recent developments on Hispanics in Higher Education

K-12 institutions must prepare Hispanic students for life after high school. 

While we know that over the recent years Hispanic high-school graduation rates are up and college enrollment has increased, still many Hispanic students graduate from high-school only to find out they need to take remedial courses in college. Only about 25% of Hispanic high school graduates meet college-ready standards, and those that don’t must take remedial courses before they can earn college credit.

This is why the FE Coalition advocates for all children, regardless of their ethnicity, family’s SES, or zip code, to have access to a high quality education that prepares them for college or a career. 

And while the Hispanic community still waits for see signs that states and districts are improving Hispanic student outcomes across the board, our world was hit with the coronavirus pandemic which, aside from its immediate effects on public health, placed an even greater amount of strain on the ministry of advancing Hispanic college student achievement.

Last week the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote, “Hispanic students are higher ed’s growth engine. Unemployment and underemployment could keep them from enrolling.” 

According to Deborah Santiago of Excelencia in Education, recent years show that Hispanics are the driving force for college enrollment and completion growth in the U.S. Yet, as the article noted, with many Hispanic students who lost jobs and whose parents have lost job, that could change. Since the Hispanic population tends to work in the service industry, a sector which the pandemic greatly affected, she argues that many students may find themselves and their families without the means to pay for college. Consequently, if enrollment numbers go down, the institutions which exist to serve Hispanic students may struggle to remain open and not have the extra resources to support Hispanic students in years to come.  

The effect the pandemic has had on the economy feeds into recent news from Inside Higher Ed on the bipartisan group of U.S. Senators who urged the U.S. Department of Education to make changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form so students who seek federal aid can annotate their reductions in pay that may have resulted from the coronavirus.  The senators wrote in a letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos. “We are concerned that the current financial situation of students who recently filed, or are in the process of filing, their FAFSA may not be accurately reflected . . . Students and families who have recently become unemployed or suffered a significant drop in income may fail to qualify for the support they need to afford college.”

The letters were signed by two Democrats, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, and two Republicans, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia.

The same source also reported that the number of students filing for FAFSA is down from this time last year and that the number of applications completed started to decline in mid-March, around the time of the immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National College Attainment Network which tracks FAFSA applications. Additionally, although the number of application renewals has increased since April, the number of renewals still falls beneath the amount from last year.

Now more than ever, Hispanics families need to take advantage of federal and state programs to help students pay for college.

Now more than ever, churches need to stand alongside and support Hispanic students through ofrendas, matching scholarships, grocery cards, or financial counseling.

The coronavirus has impacted our globe in a way we never could have imagined, but we cannot allow it to become an additional barrier to Hispanic college student achievement. We must press on.

If you or your child would like more information on opportunities that help pay for or offset college expenses, please send me a note at We would love to help in any way we can. We are in this fight together. 

Forward and higher in Christ, 

Rev. Girien R. Salazar
Executive Director, FE Coalition