Oscar Sweeten-Lopez recently published a Spanish language piece on the Huffington Post. We are republisihng the piece in English here.
Nearly 89 percent of Latino students recognize that a college education is important for success in life. So why do only half of those students say they plan to get a college degree? According to a national survey of Latinos by the Pew Hispanic Center, the biggest reason is the pressure these kids feel to help care for their families financially.
This massive aspiration gap points to a greater problem: a large portion of our nation’s students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, will not obtain a college degree. They do not have the support or resources necessary to graduate from college. And while many scholarship programs offer generous financial funding to help get these students to the front door, most do not offer the broader support necessary to help them graduate from college. Especially within our Latino communities, the financial pressures from home, frequently become too great to overcome. Students often drop out to help their families stay afloat.
A check is not enough
It’s clear that a check alone is not sufficient to help these students continue to achieve success in college, and that scholarship programs need to offer more than money to help them reach the ultimate goal: graduation. The statistics prove that nonacademic factors have a strong influence on Latino students’ college aspirations and graduation rates, and all too often, pull them out of the running for a college degree.
To support students like these, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has funded the Dell Scholars Program, which seeks not only to send these students to college, but to support them through college, as they overcome the obstacles that may prevent them from finishing with a degree in hand.
In selecting scholars, the Dell Scholars Program looks beyond academic performance and grades. We have identified indicators help us identify applicants capable of performing at levels higher than what their GPAs or test scores might predict. This program’s innovative approach has paid off: The Dell Scholars Program is entering its ninth year and has helped 2,150 at-risk students. Despite the challenges in their lives, 425 have completed college, and 1,576 are currently working toward graduation. The focus of the program is completion, and the Dell Scholars Program is helping students achieve that goal one student at a time. Overall, 85 percent of Dell Scholars graduate in a six-year period, as compared to the national graduation rate average of 19 percent for low-income, underserved students. Forty-eight percent of Dell Scholars are Latino, and have successfully graduated from Universities such as Harvard and Duke with degrees in everything from business to psychology.
A sense of community
The program offer students $20,000 in financial aid and includes wrap-around services that help scholars and their families overcome the nonacademic challenges—such as financial, legal and personal relationship issues—that can and often too adversely affect many students’ ability to graduate. The program also provides technology and an online community for mentoring and peer interaction. Upon admittance to the Dell Scholars Program, students immediately become part of a support network that comprises their schools, families, peers and a dedicated Dell Scholars team at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Through these services, we provide a sense of community and family that is so important to the Latino culture. We specialize in supplying student with the support network they need to meet the competing demands of family and school.
We know that scholarship programs nationwide are both generous and well -intended. But we also know from experience that it takes more than money to help students graduate, and that with the proper resources in place, college is within reach for all Latino students who want to go, but who have denied themselves the opportunity because it conflicted with family.
Read the Huffington Post original here.