As a nationally recognized scholar and researcher, Dr. Lourdes
Ferrer will tell you that study findings predict exponential growth
for the U.S. Latino student population. She said there will come a
day when Hispanic students will outnumber Caucasian students in U.S.
An analysis of 2011 by the Pew Hispanic Center released this year supports Ferrer's predictions about Hispanic student enrollment being on the rise.
Last year, for the first time, more than 2 million 18- to 24- year-old Hispanics were enrolled in college, reaching a record 16.5% share among all college enrollments and making Hispanics the largest minority group on the nation's four-year college campuses. The number of associate and bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanics has also reached new highs.
The study also found that one-in-four public elementary school students is now Hispanic. And 23.9% of all pre-K through 12th grade U.S. public school students were Hispanic.
But as a lifetime learner, Hispanic immigrant, mother and public speaker in the field of education, Ferrer will tell you that findings also show that the growing Latino population only carries a potential for great progress and not a guarantee.
According to Ferrer, although Hispanics made record strides last year, they still have the highest dropout rate with only 57% graduating from high school and less than 20% earning a college degree nationwide. She added that in every national and state standardized test, Hispanic students' scores lag behind their Caucasian and Asian peers in mathematics, reading and science.
Ferrer credits her success in the U.S. and her escape from poverty and abuse to the quality education she obtained.
"Once you are educated, you have the ability to read, understand, and establish a network," she said. "Education allows us to navigate even the worst of challenges."
Her passion for helping Latinos reach their potential through education led her to study why performance gaps exist between Hispanics and their Caucasian and Asian counterparts.
For five years Ferrer conducted studies and student interviews to understand why Hispanic students are likely to attend schools characterized by poor instruction, lower academic expectations, and disciplinary problems.
"Most of the student's responses had little or nothing to do with what happened in their classrooms or schools," said Ferrer, "Words such as parents, family and home outweighed words such as teacher, classroom, or school."
She was surprised to find that students linked their poor school performance directly or indirectly to the lack of parental support or involvement in their life.
"This definitely affects their employability," she said. "Because of the size of the population, the lack of academic achievement also has a wide-reaching effect on the country. It weakens the nation's competitiveness in the world markets."
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