Mission Possible: Providing Education Information to Hispanic Families

Posted: July 18th, 2016

ACT recently announced its Center for Equity in Learning, which will advance ACT’s nonprofit mission to help people achieve success in education and the workplace through partnerships, research and initiatives aimed at closing gaps in equity and achievement for underserved learners. It’s a personal mission for many of the team’s staff members, including Juan Garcia, a senior director.

In a recent opinion piece for the Hechinger Report, Garcia highlighted ACT’s work to empower Hispanic families with information that will help their children gain access to a college education. In partnership with Univision, ACT staged Parent Academies in 10 major cities across the country to provide information in Spanish about college preparation and affordability. For 2016, six thousand people were expected to attend. Instead, 20,000 showed up.

The dramatic turnout, Garcia says, is evidence of just how important a child’s success is to these families— and just how difficult it is for them to receive the information they need through normal channels. Through the Academies, he has seen first-hand the problems many encounter, from being taken advantage of by individuals who charge for services like filling out the free Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to not understanding the information they do receive because of language barriers. It is a problem Garcia faced himself when he immigrated to the United States from Peru 30 years ago without being able to speak English.

“We know that parental/family involvement is strongly influential in determining a student’s readiness and expectations for attending and affording college,” he says in the op-ed. “We also know even the best-educated parents have trouble wading through the morass of forms and financial estimates that college and aid applications entail. If getting an accurate handle on college affordability is daunting for them, it’s not too hard to imagine why many families where English is not often spoken may find it intimidating, if not impossible, to navigate.”

In addition to information about the college admissions and financing process, Juan emphasizes the need for students to have access to rigorous coursework, citing data showing that only a quarter of Hispanic students in the 2015 high school graduating class met the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in three of four categories, nearly half the national average. Especially in underfunded schools, students with high aptitude can be stymied by a lack of educational resources and support. Providing parents with early information regarding their child’s future, he stresses, is critically important to helping students with drive to use educational achievement as a path out of poverty.

Read the Condition of College and Career Readiness for Hispanic Students report here.