The number of Latino men enrolling in college increased 75 percent between 2005 and 2014, from 718,500 to 1.26 million. Yet compared to Latino women, these young men make up a disproportionately small percentage of college students. In 2014, Latino men made up just 43 percent of Latinos enrolled in college to Latinas’ 57 percent. The disparity at the graduate level is even more pronounced.
As Hispanic students make up a growing portion of the nation’s students, colleges and advocacy organizations are looking for ways to reduce that disparity, and in the process, grappling with how to serve a student body with needs that look nothing like those of a generation ago. It’s a crucial task, as the Latino-focused nonprofit Excelencia in Education pointed out during a recent webinar, because their ability to succeed in college will be crucial for the United States’ future economic success.
Before schools can develop programs to reduce the gap, they need to understand the unique challenges Latino men face. Victor Saenz, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the executive director of Project MALES, a mentoring program and research initiative aimed at identifying and implementing ways to help Latino men succeed, has spent years focusing on the issue. While there is a surprising dearth of scholarship on the education of Latino men “given the demographic imperative that is all around us,” he said, it is clear that they are disproportionately likely to attend under-resourced schools with inexperienced teachers, high leadership turnover, and other systemic inequalities. They are overrepresented in special-education classes, especially when it comes to behavioral and emotional issues, and they are disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled.