Yesenia Rojas is a senior at Paschal High School, a Mexican American and a hopeful first-generation college student.
Rojas, who wants to be a maternity nurse, said one of her concerns in choosing where to go to college is her ability to afford it.
A 2008 report tracking changes in Latino freshmen at four-year institutions since 1975 found that one in five Latino students expresses a major concern about their ability to finance college at the start of the school year.
Ray Brown, dean of admission, said as a whole, Latinos tend to not have the financial resources that whites do.
“The Latino population, and to a lesser extent, the black population, tend to be more loan averse cultures,” Brown said. “They either cannot take out loans, or usually don’t want to take out loans at a far higher rate than Asian Americans and white Americans.”
A 2005 study by Excelencia in Education and the Institute for Higher Education Policy found in 2003-2004, 63 percent of Latino undergraduates nationwide who applied for financial aid received some form of aid. According to the study, half of Latinos received grants and 30 percent received loans.
Kiesha Harvey, coordinator counselor for Upward Bound, said some Latino families don’t understand the loan process and are hesitant to take out loans.
The report, written by University of California Los Angeles professors Sylvia Hurtado and Jose Luis Santos, University of Texas at Austin professor Victor B. Saenz and UCLA graduate student Nolan L. Cabrera, also found that even though the majority of Latino students come from households where at least one parent has some postsecondary education, they remain the racial group with the lowest parental attainment levels.
According to the report, this statistic means Latinos are most likely to be first-generation college students.
Brown said this reality affects the decisions of Latinos to apply or go to college. Those who go to college are the ones who understand that it is a good investment, Brown said. The value of a higher education is a message that can be transmitted to children by their parents, he said.
“That’s the main reason why we, as admission officers, are so sensitive to first-generation college kids,” Brown said. “They don’t have that conversation going on in their home.”
The report indicated the gap between non-Hispanic white and Latino parental median household incomes has increased about four times since 1975.
According to the report, in 1975, the median household income of Mexican-American students was $12,765 compared to $18,529 for non-Hispanic White students. In 2006, the median household income of Mexican-American students was $50,769 compared to $85,670 for non-Hispanic white students.
The median household income for Puerto Rican students was $8,032 in 1975. In 2006, it was $53,378. The report separates Latino freshmen by race or ethnicity.
Michael Marshall, assistant director of admission, said one of the priorities for many Latino students is to help provide income for their families.
“If you’re a son or if you’re a daughter you need to be contributing to the household,” Marshall said. “And so education, as a result, is put on the back burner.”
The report found the proportion of Latino males relative to Latina females going to college has declined from 57.4 percent male students in 1975 to 39.2 percent male students in 2006.
According to statistics from the Office of Institutional Research, 154 Latino freshmen enrolled at the university this year. Of those freshmen, about 40 percent are male and about 60 percent are female.
Harvey said many Latino men stay home to work instead of going to college.
Rodolfo Ramirez, a freshman mechanical engineering and mathematics major and first-generation college student at TCU, said Latino men usually start working in middle school or high school.
“As soon as they can work, pretty much when they are teenagers, they start working for their father’s company or wherever they work,” Ramirez said. “They try to get a job as quick as possible.”
Gloria Melendez, a sophomore at Paschal High School, said Latino men know they can get a job easily if they drop out of high school.
The report also indicates the number of Latinos attending their first-choice college has declined 27 percent and intended major and career objectives have remained similar over time.
The report cites biology, psychology, political science, business, nursing and elementary education as majors that have remained in the top ten intended majors for Latino students upon entering college.
154 Latino freshmen enrolled at the university this year
40 percent male
60 percent female