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Colleges Are Attracting More Latinx Students, but Aren’t Doing Enough to Help Them Succeed

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Like many U.S. colleges, Indiana University–Northwest is seeing a sharp rise in Latinx students—but support for them is lagging.

This story was produced by the Hechinger Report.

The first time Hsiulien Perez attended Indiana University–Northwest, in the early 1990s, she had just graduated from high school and given birth to her first child. Her mother, an immigrant from Taiwan, and her father, from Mexico, hadn’t gone to college and couldn’t offer any guidance for navigating day-to-day campus life. When her car broke down after a few semesters, a lack of public transit meant she didn’t have any way to get to school. Instead of formally withdrawing, Perez just stopped showing up.

But after years working seasonal jobs sorting equipment at the local Ford plant and dealing blackjack at nearby casinos, Perez wanted to rise to a management position—and she couldn’t without a bachelor’s degree. So in 2016 she headed back to the 42-acre campus near Gary, Indiana’s dilapidated downtown to study for a degree in general studies. “I have two little ones and their dads don’t help me,” says Perez, 45. “I need stability, that’s the word.”

But the odds haven’t been with her. At IU–Northwest in 2017, Latinx students like Perez had a graduation rate of just 28 percent, while the graduation rate for white students was 35 percent. Those numbers reflect a nationwide gap: Latinx are half as likely as non-Hispanic whites to hold a bachelor’s degree, and the gulf has widened since the early 2000s.

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