Updated: Sep 22
Books in the Barrio remains committed to creating spaces that blur the boundaries between literacy, education, and art. As part of this work, we joined the Mexican American Studies Program at St. Philip’s College (SPC) on September 15th for Noche de Orgullo, an evening of music, tacos, familia, community, and education. The intent was to mark National Hispanic Serving Institution Week and to draw attention to the underrepresentation of Chican@s in STEM fields. The event was a success as faculty, staff, students, their families and friends all joined us on the lawn to listen to local Chicano band Los Nahuatlatos.
We met a grandmother who brought her two grandchildren; a student who brought her kids; a pachuco who came ready to party, and countless others who were overjoyed at hearing music they recognized on a college campus. For one evening at least, the college felt open, welcoming. It was a reminder of the hard work that colleges have to do in order to address educational inequality and in order to retain and support Chican@ students.
According to Excelencia in Education 2020-2021 enrollment analysis, there are 559 HSIs, representing 18% of all higher education institutions, and enrolling 69% of all Latino students. 40% of all HSIs are 2-year public institutions, just like SPC. These numbers are staggering and because of the COVID pandemic, they are beginning to shift. Excelencia’s most recent data suggests that Latino enrollment dropped by about 10% in 2020, despite previous projections of accelerated growth. This shift in enrollment should be concerning not only for what it signifies to the advancement of the Latina/o community but because it represents only a small preview of the effects of the COVID pandemic, which was devastating for Latina/o communities, particularly children. It will be years before we see the full effects of the educational disruption caused by the pandemic. HSIs, such as SPC, need to begin rethinking their approach to the recruitment, retainment, and success of Chican@ students, because the challenge won’t just be ensuring that Chicana/o students have access to higher education but also providing the support they need to be successful once they arrive and recognizing that sometimes that support comes in the form of an evening of family, tacos, and music.