Getting an Education Today for a Better Tomorrow


Latina College Graduation

by Stephanie Bravo

By 2018, about 66% of new jobs will require a post-secondary degree. That’s about 18 million new jobs that will require a college degree or credential. Unfortunately, the U.S. will fall short of filling those jobs because there won’t be enough college graduates to fill them.

As the fastest growing subpopulation in the nation, Latinos are primed to step into those new jobs. But, we won’t be able to at the current rate since only 19% of Latinos earn a college degree as compared to 41% of their peers from the majority population.

That is why it’s so important for Latinos to pursue higher education. All the organizations that have a vested interest in the Latinos are pushing harder than ever to bolster the pipeline. For example, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund recently launched the Generation 1st Degree movement to ensure that every Latino household has one college degree thereby closing the degree gap between Latinos and their peers.

But, even with more monies and support from powerful organizations, there are still significant barriers that exist for Latinos in higher education. Particularly, for the modern Latina there are some significant cultural and socioeconomic issues that arise preventing us from getting a post-secondary education.

5 Existing Barriers to Pursuing Higher Education for Latinas:

  • Family Ties.  An informal poll of Latina college students rated this as the number one criteria preventing them from succeeding in higher education. From taking care of siblings to contributing to family income, family responsibilities are without a doubt important to modern Latinas and can adversely affect whether they complete college.
  • Culture Clash.  Working today for short-term survival can trump long-term planning among some Latino families. Yet, investing in an education is a surefire way to substantially increase a Latina’s earning potential.
  • Money Woes.  College tuition is at the highest it’s ever been and costs are continuing to rise. Even with the support of scholarships, Latina students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are being dissuaded from completing and enrolling in college because of the high price tag and their debilitating fear of student loan debt.
  • Gender Bender.  Unfortunately for the modern Latina, there are still those strict gender roles for women within our culture. And, usually those roles for women are not conducive to simultaneously pursuing an education and feeling the pressure of being happily married, raising 2.5 children, and being content as an ama de casa at the ripe old age of 22.
  • Role Modeling.  Where are the Latina success stories? I’m not talking about the latest actress or singer to grace the cover of Latina Magazine. I’m talking about those Latinas who came up through the ranks of the corporate ladder to become the company’s CEO, Latinadoctors in the trenches helping the poorest of the poor, and the nonprofit leaders and community organizers that are impacting their communities on a daily basis.

Once the modern Latina gets through these barriers, she thrives in higher education. But, how does she navigate through this turbulent obstacle course?

One way to knock down most (if not all) of these barriers is to reach out for help and find a mentor—or someone who was in a similar position dealing with all of these things when she was in school. Mentors can be your professors, bosses, siblings, friends, comadres, or any person who has a particular life experience or skillset that she is willing to share with you. By reaching out and learning about their experiences it can give you priceless insight into your own problems and, most importantly, their solutions. From learning how she approached her parents when she made the decision to go to college, choosing college courses, starting a small business, or getting practical financial advice, a mentor can help you address those barriers and provide you with their secrets to success.

I believe that by reaching back to the younger generations and serving as mentor to up-and-coming Latinas, we can continue to boost college completion and graduation rates for Latinas. Not only will we improve the place of Latinas within society, but we will contribute to a more educated and robust U.S.workforce of tomorrow.

Note: Referenced statistics and data are from Hispanic Scholarship Fund at and an informal poll of college-aged Latinas from the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley’s Engaged Latina Leadership Program (ELLAs).

Stephanie Bravo is the Co-Founder and President of, a nonprofit organization that helps college students achieve their academic and career goals through the power of mentoring. As a first generation college student, Stephanie was only able to graduate from San Jose State University earning a B.A. in Psychology through the help of a mentorship program. Her life-changing experience with a mentor inspired her to help other students succeed in higher education. Stephanie is an active advocate for increasing Latinos in higher education through her volunteer work at the Latina Coalition for Silicon Valley and Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Stephanie is a proud Mexican-American spanning back four generations to the 1940s when her great-grandparents retired migrant farming and settled in San Jose, California.