This post was written by MCG member, Jeff.
Have you ever been to a dinner with a friend or client and you reach that awkward moment of who pays? Money in our society seems to always be a touchy subject. I share an uncomfortable feeling talking about my finances with others and vice versa – it feels like I’m dropping a veil that we all put up. However, money in this world is important to having access to almost anything, and education is no different.
For better or worse, education in America seems like a pay-for-use item for the vast majority of people. What does this mean for Latinos? As the tremendous burden of paying for college has been moved from the government and to the family, many Latinos have effectively had their access to education cut off due to a lack of funds. Especially among low-income families, sometimes the only option is to graduate with extensive debt and start off a new life in the hole (Zarate and Burciaga 2010, 27). I know my own experiences with taking out a loan from the government really put things into perspective about debt. And while not all debt is bad debt, it’s almost the feeling of a small handcuff being placed on you. It’s this tiny nagging (that will grow) that says “you owe me.” I just have a small loan, but I’m sure it can be devastating when people take out a large amount of money for college (especially when they have low-income to begin with.)
Latinos, however, do not always have the same access to financial aid as others. While the aid is there, limited information is getting to Latino parents about financial aid choices. This could also impact choices in attending a preferred college for the students applying (Zarate and Burciaga 2010, 27). My parents were in a prime position for understanding financial aid information because they had been in the American education system themselves. They also worked regular hours and were able to understand the information from the school. I’m sure it would be very difficult to try and understand an educational system one was never apart of, especially if the parents are working multiple jobs just to put food on the table.
You can see that financial aid for students, especially Latinos, has an access problem. And in America, if you don’t have money to pay, it sure makes learning difficult. Shenandoah Valley Scholars’ Latino Initiative is working to present scholarships to high school scholars who have a strong desire to attend college. You can help us address a lack of finances for Latino students by donating, spreading the word, and making education access an issue that you pay attention to. I think a big thing we can all do is make talking about finances less weird. If it’s not an issue people discuss, it’s not an issue legislators will follow. So next time you’re out to dinner, don’t feel guilty asking if you should split the meal. Money is something we all need to discuss.
Zarate, M., & Burciaga, R. (2010). Latinos and College Access: Trends and Future Directions. Journal Of College Admission, (209), 24-29.Retrieved 20 October 2012 from ERIC, EBSCOhost.
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You make some excellent points here, Jeff! While I admit that I sometimes found your word choice to be a bit over-generalizing (perhaps it’s better to say “some Latinos”), I hear your sentiment as being in the right place. What I also like about your post is that it brings to light another important point raised by Zarate & Burciaga: Securing access to college is not just about money, it’s about learning to find and use information about college choices and financial aid. This very important learning opportunity is also being served by the SVSLI, particularly through sponsored campus visits and its peer mentoring program.
Thank you! That’s something I would not have noticed. It is very neat to see that SVSLI, although a more regional effort, is connected to alleviating a problem with national (and perhaps international) consequences.