Latina Students and Their Struggle for Higher Education

While women in general are often at a disadvantage, it seems even more so for Latinas. One such obstacle is the struggle for higher education. Graduating from high school is an important step in anyone’s life, but continuing to higher education is crucial to upward mobility. Your economic gains arise as you enhance your educational level.

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Facing many obstacles to succeed, Latina students fight against cultural and societal norms. Image credit: Maggie Salas Crespo.

The Pew Research Center found that financial pressure to support familial over personal needs is the biggest reason why Latinos often fail to attain higher education. While it is noble to prioritize the family over the individual, this seems to me the thing which mosts prevents Latinas from advancing beyond high school. Moreover, the family burdens for Latinas double once they reach a mature enough age, as financial contribution is added to the household chores that have existed since youth.

Statistics show that for every 100 elementary school students of Hispanic origin, about 60 percent obtain a high school diploma, 13 percent go on to obtaining a bachelors degree, and only 0.3 percent complete a doctoral degree. The drop from high school graduates to bachelor graduates is astonishing.

But not just family norms and beliefs affect those statistics. Often, Latinas tend to be among their family’s first or second generation to attend college, which puts them at a disadvantage. The education system is hardly easy to navigate, and while Latino parents are usually supportive, they often don’t know enough English, let alone how the system works. So in the absence of guidance, Latinas are left alone to figure out how to get past high school.

For Latinas to succeed in life and obtain a better living standard, education is a must. Yet as family financial stability suffers when they choose to move forward with higher education, a dilemma arises, as academic advancement is the very way to provide for that stability.

As a Latina student myself, I can attest to this constant battle between one’s aspirations and the expectations placed on you by the family. Being Latina, I was taught from a very young age that family always comes first, and individual goals and desires are a luxury. Yet the reality is that Latina students are caught in this never-ending loop put onto us by our family culture.