According to Mr. Carreon, fees per credit hour may range from $11 at a community college to $900 at a private baccalaureate college.
Community colleges also tend to be closer to Hispanic population centers, allowing students either to live at home while attending classes or to live closer to their families than they otherwise would.
The ultimate desirability of attending a community college as opposed to a four-year university is open to debate. Mr. Carreon, for example, likes to point to his experience as an example of what one can achieve via the community college route.
He received an associate’s degree from Grossmont College, east of San Diego, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University. He then earned a master’s degree in management from the University of California at Irvine and a doctorate in higher education from the University of Southern California.
He credits his associate’s degree with anchoring his future academic success, and he says it’s common for Hispanics to transfer to four-year colleges and universities after earning a degree from a community college.
Mr. Flores, on the other hand, wouldn’t describe attending a community college as a disadvantage, but he says many people who intend to transfer to a four-year college end up working after receiving their associate’s degrees.
"Oftentimes they just decide to find a well-paying job and stick to it to make ends meet and provide income for the family," he says. "In the short term, it might appear to be good decision, but in the long term it might not be to their advantage."
Mr. Flores and Ms. Martinez Tucker both say that colleges and universities are generally doing a good job recruiting Hispanic students.
Schools that are successful in recruiting and retaining Hispanic students typically have programs to address their unique financial and social needs. The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one example. Last September, Hispanic Business named Kenan-Flagler one of the top 10 business schools in the nation for Hispanic students.
Sherry Wallace, director of MBA admissions, says UNC works to attract Hispanic students through its participation in the Consortium for Graduate Study and Management. The consortium of 14 universities and 200 corporations is working to address the shortage of minorities in Corporate America. Eleven of the 14 consortium members allow prospective MBA students to apply using a common application, and the consortium provides merit fellowships to outstanding applicants.
The UNC business school is popular among Hispanic students because of its relatively small size – 270 students, compared with 400 to 600 at other business schools – and its collaborative environment, Ms. Wallace says. The school also works to create a support network by providing social outlets such as the Alliance of Minority Business Students and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.
While the consortium is working to increase opportunities for minorities in Corporate America, efforts continue elsewhere to increase the number of Hispanics pursuing degrees in math, science, engineering, and technology, says Mr. Flores.
"We are not serving our nation well when we do not prepare our young people to take on those positions," he says. "The harm goes well beyond the Hispanic community and goes to the heart of our economy and social well-being as a nation."