Money is another obstacle to graduate school for many Hispanics. On average, Hispanic families earn about 60 cents for every dollar earned by families in the overall U.S. population, despite having an average of 1.5 more people per household. Studies also have shown that Hispanics tend to be less familiar with the financial aid process and are more reluctant to borrow money to pay for college than are other groups. That reluctance mounts when they consider borrowing more money to pay for graduate school.
"They defer graduate school because they are concerned that they have all this accumulated debt and may have to borrow more," says Mr. Flores. "That creates a great deal of pressure on them. It has to be one of the main factors operating in the minds of those who decide not to go on to graduate school."
Howard Smith, dean of the Robert O. Anderson Schools of Management at the University of New Mexico, says that another deterrent to enrollment in graduate and professional schools is that many Hispanics are first-generation college students.
"They see less need to go on into the graduate program because they are out there achieving success that perhaps their family has never known," he says. "But I think those individuals who continue on after the bachelor's level see that graduate study will help them move up."
The University of New Mexico is unusual in that its Hispanic enrollment is comparatively high. Some 39 percent of the undergraduates are Hispanic, with graduate enrollment rates ranging between 20 percent and 25 percent, according to Mr. Smith. Students there are about five years older than the national average – three to five years older in the school's MBA program – largely because 80 percent to 85 percent work full time or part time. Many are married and have children, and those responsibilities sometimes pose an obstacle to graduation.
"These are people who balance family obligations and jobs, and then a little further down the list is education," he says. "One of those factors gets out of balance and the academics tend to suffer as a result. When you have to feed a young one and you need that job, and that job is demanding more time, the thing that tends to suffer is the academic side. It takes them longer to complete their degrees, but at the same time they're gaining valuable work experience, and that is why recruiters like to come here to recruit."
Charles G. Williams, a corporate recruiter for GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical company, says business knowledge, work experience, and maturity are among the qualities that make someone with a graduate degree appealing to an employer.
Mr. Williams, who recruits minority candidates to become pharmaceutical sales representatives, says his company looks for bright individuals with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, because they have to master a lot of technical information to converse intelligently with doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
Hispanics with graduate degrees are very much in demand, he says, but the factor that limits them and other potential candidates the most is reluctance to relocate if needed.
"If they really want to start a career and get into the corporate world, they have to exercise a bit more flexibility than their parents did," he says.
|Relatively few Hispanics attend graduate school, yet their completion rates tend to be high, and equal to those of other ethnicities, says Todd Lloyd, associate director of admissions at Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University.|
Students from Latin American countries often demonstrate such willingness in their decision to complete graduate degrees in the United States and, in many cases, to remain here to pursue their careers. Mr. Flores says more foreign students than U.S. students are earning degrees in engineering at U.S. universities, and only three percent of engineering degrees are conferred on U.S. Hispanics.
Todd Lloyd, associate director of admissions and international programs at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, says 40 percent of that university's full-time MBA students come from foreign countries. The university actively recruits MBA candidates from Latin American countries, and each year 10 to 15 such students enroll in the full-time MBA program, which has an enrollment of about 400. Hispanics account for 10 percent to 15 percent of enrollment in the full-time program, he says.
Graduation rates for Hispanics who enroll in graduate and professional schools tend to be high, and equal to those of other ethnicities, say Mr. Lloyd and others in the education field.
"You have to recognize that an MBA program is a major investment of both time and money, and consequently almost all who start a program will finish it," says Mr. Lloyd.
Mr. Flores says those who enter graduate school are the most determined and disciplined students.
"Generally these are people who will succeed once they go in, because they already went through all possible obstacles, barriers, and challenges, so for the most part they succeed," he says.
Manuel J. Espinoza is one graduate who did just that. Now retired from Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, Mr. Espinoza is president and CEO of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting. He also holds a master's degree in accounting and is a certified public accountant.
Mr. Espinoza earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Arizona, in 1973 and 1974, respectively. Although he believes the master's degree on his resume wasn't a major factor in getting his first job in the professional world, it played an important role in his job performance.
The extra 18 months it took him to earn his master's degree helped him mature and also helped prepare him for his CPA examination. His graduate school experience exposed him to people who had been in the workforce for several years, to his benefit. He says when he earned his master's degree there wasn't much of a premium placed on it, but employers now recognize its value and are willing to pay more for someone who has such a degree.
But to get to that level, Hispanics must begin to view graduate and professional degrees as attainable and must choose to aim higher than a bachelor's degree, even if they're the first in their families to attend college. Hispanics need to encourage their children not just to go to college, but to become top-notch professionals, scientists, and engineers, Mr. Flores concludes.