Shaping the Future of the Hispanic Knowledge Capital

Dr. Ivonne Chirino-Klevans touches on the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States

By Dr. Ivonne Chirino-Klevans | Program Director of Walden University's Center for International Programs
Librado Romero | The New York Times

Much has been written lately around the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States. Toosi predicted that 24% of workers in 2050 in the U.S. will be Hispanic. This number was 11% in 2000.


Other numbers show that the median age for this population is 27.2 vs. 36.2 for the rest of the population. To this, let’s add the fact that, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, about 5.7 million of Hispanics are college-ready (have a high school degree or some college). These statistics reflect the need to provide opportunities for Latinos to have access to Higher Education so that they themselves are able to meet the needs and have the required skills to be successful in today’s job market.


But, what is today’s job market like?  Are there patterns? Here are some examples of what is happening: Organizations are not always looking internally (or for that matter within the country) to locate talent to fill job vacancies, but considering the world as the new pool in search of work-force talent. Only those individuals who are able to develop skills that can compete with potential candidates across the globe will be the ones who would thrive in this job market.


So, what does this mean for the Hispanic individual? What does this mean for Higher Learning institutions? The statistics tell us that there is a segment of the population which is ready for college, so Higher Learning institutions should make it part of their strategy to provide opportunities and access to Higher Education to motivated students from underrepresented segments of the population. After all, education also means higher pay and lower unemployment. But is not only open access, which helps students thrive.


A strong support system should be put in place to help students be successful in the academic world.


The U.S. Census bureau reports that Hispanics who start out at two-year institutions are less likely to transfer and attain a Bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, only 5% of Hispanics who started at a two-year institution during the 1995-1996 academic year had attained a Bachelor’s degree in 2001. In comparison, of Hispanics who started at a four-year institution, 44% had earned a Bachelor’s degree.


Hispanic serving institutions have set a good example in setting robust support systems in place to help Hispanic students thrive in the academic environment. For example, Deborah Santiago in the publication “Excelencia en Educación” summarizes best practices some Hispanic serving institutions are following to attract, retain and develop Hispanic students in college:


  1. Academic support: These institutions have found that cohort support programs, academic advising, and a strong developmental education program are very well received among this population. These programs enhance self-efficacy (the perception in the ability to reach challenging goals), and provide a supportive environment for students entering a new academic experience. Some of these students may be the first generation that attend college in their families, so there may be a steeper learning curve into understanding college academic life.
  2. Leadership: These institutions have consistently shown strong support from top leadership within their institutions in. Their goal is not only to attract and enroll Latino students but also to put in place resources that meet the needs of this population. This commitment goes beyond publicity and superficiality, but it is demonstrated in the types of policies and procedures that the institution has in place.
  3. Evidence-based and data-based decision making. This means that strategies and action plans directed to help Hispanic students thrive are driven by sound data. And data is recorded as well after the action plans have been put in place. This way solid metrics will aide in the necessary revisions of action plans. For example, first year programs have been put in place to develop skills such as studying habits. A pre-intervention and post-intervention measurement of study habits and impact on grades are recorded. This way data will confirm (or not) if this has been a successful intervention and what changes need to be put in place to make this intervention more successful.
  4. Community outreach: One of the barriers for Latinos to enroll in higher learning institutions has been the lack of role models within their communities. That is why Hispanic Serving Institutions have created close ties to the Hispanic business community, to provide formal mentorship to students, to provide positive role models that help students believe in themselves, and set higher standards for their education
  5. Faculty as student mentors: This intervention helps students develop a respectful, meaningful relationship with an academic role model. It is through this mentoring relationship that faculty helps students develop self-efficacy, self-confidence in their own abilities, and provide coaching to develop a sense of competency.


Pragmatically, the labor market trends indicate that there is a big difference in salaries when you have a bachelor’s degree. But equally important is the development of self-confidence in the Hispanic student, who will become the largest majority in the U.S. in a few years, which could turn into a minority of well educated entrepreneurs. This ability will permeate in different aspects of his/her life with the goal of having the opportunity to thrive and make a difference for them, become role models for others, and intrinsically improving society.


Education has to go beyond enrollments, it is about providing human beings with opportunities to prove themselves that they are able to make a difference, and will positively impact society as a whole.


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