Oscar Corral discusses challenges faced by Hispanic students in college
The following story was published Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, on MPR News:
Hannah Weikel • Inver Grove Heights • Education
Oscar Corral always expected he’d earn a college degree, and when he moved to the United States from Mexico at age 16 that dream didn’t change. If anything, he believed his college prospects would be brighter here.
He didn’t anticipate high school counselors would urge him to not bother taking the ACT or tell him that he would never be able to afford college. When he did make it to college, he didn’t expect to confront cultural and academic challenges to graduation that many students of color face but that don’t often get discussed.
Now in his third year at Inver Hills Community College, Corral recently changed his major for the third time, from engineering to political science and social justice, tacking on another year and pushing back his graduation further. The 22-year-old said had he received more information about college preparation and guidance before graduating high school, he would have realized his passion for social justice much sooner, saving him time and money.
“Me getting into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Corral said.
Corral’s story is a familiar one to those who study the struggles of students of color trying to get into college and succeed there.
Often, they don’t get the guidance they need in high school, leaving them unprepared for college. When they do make it to college, high costs, unbalanced expectations and a tough time finding other students like them on campus are all factors that play out against them, said Minerva Muñoz, director of TRIO Student Support Services, part of a national program that helps disadvantaged students succeed in college and bridges the achievement gap.
“They go through this kind of dissonance when they get here, not feeling like they belong,” Muñoz said.
Data show how difficult that transition can be. Since 2008, Hispanic students have more than doubled their enrollment numbers in Minnesota colleges and universities. But graduating with a degree is another matter.
For instance, 41 percent of Hispanic students in Minnesota who started at a two-year institution in 2011 had graduated after three years. The other 59 percent had dropped out by that point, transferred or pushed graduation back. Sixty-six percent of white students graduate from four-year colleges within six years, but just 54 percent of Hispanic students graduate.
Experts say graduation rates are the best indication of how the achievement gap between white and minority students that starts in grade school later manifests in higher education.
In Minnesota, American Indian students have the lowest rates, next to black, Asian and Hispanic students. The on-time high school graduation rate for Hispanic students in Minnesota was 69 percent in 2015, about 20 percentage points lower than white students. Minnesota has the largest high school graduation gap between Hispanic and white students compared to other states.
You can learn more about Oscar Corral, who serves as Student Senate president at Inver Hills, by reading “Community-Based Learning with DARTS” and “Student Senators Elected to MSCSA Positions” and “MN Campus Compact Presidents’ Awards” on Inver Hills News.
- Age: 22
- High school and year graduated: Henry Sibley High School Class of 2014
- Hometown: Meoqui, Chihuahua, Mexico
- Residence now: West St. Paul, Minnesota
- Areas of study at Inver Hills: Political science and social justice
- Extracurricular participation at Inver Hills: Student Senate president, Unidos-Spanish Club, International Club, LGTBQ+ Club, Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA)
- Future academic plans: Transfer to Augsburg College
- Family: One brother, Victor *, and one sister, Jazmin
- Pastimes and hobbies: Loves to play volleyball; played at volleyball nationals in Mexico; listens to music, loves to cook, enjoys spending time with friends
* You can learn more about Victor by reading “Student Spotlight: Victor Corral” on Inver Hills News.
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