The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

February 17, 2012

How You Can Help Latino Students Finish College

By: 
Steve Tamayo

All across the United States, Latino student enrollment has increased. This recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center detailed a 24% spike in Hispanic college enrollment—in one year.

But will these students graduate?

Latino college students tend to complete college half as successfully as their peers (19.2% versus 41.1% according to the CollegeBoard Advocacy & Policy Center).

Colleges and universities do their best to help students finish school. Tuition assistance, parental orientation, and cohort groups: research shows that these positively impact college completion.

But what is InterVarsity doing … and how can you help?

If you are a student:

In InterVarsity, we love creating communities who love God and love each other. Small groups provide space on campus where you can get to know other people and be known by them. A family on campus.

Family is vitally important to Latino students. So important, in fact, that many Latino students struggle to thrive when they leave their families to go off to college. Loneliness and isolation distract students from their studies, sending grades spiraling. And a longing for community often drives students out of college, back to their families.

But remember, we build communities! Our small groups provide a sense of familia that helps Latino students thrive emotionally in college. For Latino students, these relationships significantly influence whether or not they’ll continue all the way through college. 

The college campus can feel like a cold and anonymous place. Your small group can change this!

Now, you probably weren’t thinking about issues of college completion when you got involved with a small group. But we need to be aware of the ripple effects our communities are having on campus.

Next step: Explore how you can open up your small group to Latino students.

If you are a faculty or staff member:

Latino students frequently wrestle with debt and side jobs, putting them under tremendous pressure and squeezing them out of school.

In your role on campus, Latino students will look to you for mentorship and guidance. And not just with academics. As you interact with students on campus, you can help them think about time, money, and work in ways that honor God and relieve stress. 

Additionally, faculty and staff mentors can:

  • help students choose classes,
  • give access to insider knowledge about the college,
  • compensate for gaps in family familiarity with the college experience.

Next step: Consider actively serving as a faculty advisor for a student organization to give yourself a deeper connection with students. Read how two faculty members used their position to serve students here and here.

If you are an InterVarsity alumnus:

You know that God is up to something significant in the world and invites us to join him. This missional vision can give students a motivation to finish school and move on to other things.

When it comes to Latino students, we aren’t concerned with graduation primarily for graduation’s sake or because of the status that comes with finishing school or even because this is a conversation happening around campus. 

We want Latino students to complete college because we think that God has amazing things in store for them in the church and in the world, things he’s preparing them for beyond graduation. 

In your position as someone on the other side of graduation, you can be an example to these students, holding out a missional vision for them as a motivation to persevere through college. 

Next step: Contact your local InterVarsity staff here to see how you can connect with and inspire students.

Some further thoughts from Steve on his blog, on ministering to Latino student populations.

What suggestions do you have for helping Latino students thrive in college?

Steve Tamayo serves students and staff in the sunny southern tip of Florida, where he hopes to see thriving witnessing communities in every corner of every campus.  He lives with his wife, son and two dogs and blogs at www.yosteve.blogspot.com.

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