Aug 312011

Several years ago, my wife and I went to the college graduation party for a son of one of her close friends. The young man being honored had just finished a degree in criminal justice from Grand Rapids Community College and was the first in his family to pursue higher education. After proud family members and close friends gave him a standing ovation for his efforts, he composed himself and thanked everyone for attending. I recall the how the conversations that day revolved around him being a pioneer in his family. I also wondered if we would begin to see more Latinos like this young man pursuing higher education. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center would seem to answer my question. Perhaps more Latino families, like the one above, will soon be attending college graduation parities.

The Pew Hispanic Center study found that college enrollment for 18- to 24-year-old Latinos increased 24% between 2009 and 2010. This has closed the gap between Latinos and other groups. While Latino enrollment increased by 349,000, enrollment for African-Americans increased by 88,000, enrollment for Asian-Americans increased by 43,000, and Caucasian enrollment decreased by 320,000. Although the increase in Latino enrollment may be accredited to the high population growth, the study also found the 24% increase over-shadowed the population increase of 18- to 24-year-old Latinos at 7%. Latino educational achievement is clearly a priority and, in my opinion, should also be for college recruiters and marketers.

An article in the Orlando Sentinel picked up on the recent statistics and found that colleges, such as the University of Central Florida, are engaged in recruiting Latino and other minority students as early as the middle-school level. In one example, a 20-year-old young Latina from Orange County considered college only after recruiters introduced her to campus life through side-trips from high school. Although her parents encouraged her, she didn’t have a close relationship with anyone who had graduated from college. This has been an issue within under-served communities and some school districts have been engaged with programs to encourage youth empowerment through higher education. Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Latino youth program called Yo Puedo is involved with several area schools in the Grand Rapids Public Schools district. The program will often take students on side-trips to nearby colleges. Several graduates of the 20-year-old program have gone on to pursue and complete higher education. Some have returned to become community leaders. (I mentioned Yo Puedo in a previous post about education.)

So, what are some implications for marketers and recruiters?

  • Realize that some Latino families may not be as acculturated to the expectations of continuing on to higher education.
  • At the same time, also realize that many Latino immigrant parents may strongly desire their children to attend college and take advantage of opportunities they never had.
  • Be aware that the idea of higher education may require education in itself. A young Latino may not have a college graduate role model to look up to and may need to learn about the benefits of college life first-hand.
  • Understand that the market for young Latino college students is lucrative and quickly growing.

Despite previous statistics that have suggested higher drop-out rates among Latino high school students, the latest statistics mentioned above offer hope for tomorrow’s youth. As our nation continues to struggle with its financial well-being, perhaps we can count on young educated Latinos to forge a new direction of prosperity. In the meantime, I’ll try to stock-up on a supply of graduation cards.

The following was a guest blog post by Jonathan A. Barrera Mikulich of

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