ERIC Identifier: ED365206
Publication Date: 1994-01-00
Author: Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr. - Martinez, Ruben O.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.| George
Washington Univ. Washington DC. School of Education and Human Development.
Chicanos in Higher Education: Issues and Dilemmas for the 21st
Century. ERIC Digest.
As we approach the 21st century, U.S. society is renewing its interest in
educational opportunity for racial and ethnic minorities. Not since the civil
rights movement of the 1960s have we seen stirrings in this area that seemingly
promise some change in the relationship between educational institutions and
ethnic minority populations. As one of the fastest-growing minority populations
in the United States, the Chicano population needs to examine its educational
condition in U.S. society.
HOW DO CHICANOS RELATE TO THE U.S. EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM?
educational crisis exists in the Chicano population, for the Chicano population
has fared poorly in its progress through the U.S. educational system. Compared
to the educational outcomes of other racial and ethnic populations in the United
States, the Chicano population's educational outcomes are deplorably low. In
1990, for example, less than half of the Chicano population 25 years and older
had completed at least four years of high school. Compared with other ethnic
groups in the Hispanic population, the Chicano population ranks at the bottom.
Chicanos are undereducated, and a contributing factor to that undereducation
is the relative social and cultural isolation of Chicanos in U.S. schools. This
relative isolation, coupled with segmentation created by educational tracking,
has placed the population at risk with regard to its educational outcomes and
its economic outcomes. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the Chicano
population's position of risk in U.S. schools is the high dropout rate from high
school of its youth.
HOW DO CHICANOS RELATE TO HIGHER EDUCATION?
While access to
higher education has improved slowly for Chicanos, the number of Chicanos in
postsecondary institutions is quite low. The limited presence of Chicanos in
higher education can be attributed, in part, to the small number of Chicano
students who pursue a postsecondary education. The tapering of the educational
pipeline results in a trickle of Chicano students entering postsecondary
The participation of Chicano students in U.S. higher education has a long and
obscure history. It began with the early days of los californios at Santa Clara
College in the 1850s and reached its zenith in the turbulence of Chicano
students at Berkeley in the 1960s. The social and political climate of the 1960s
served as the context for the construction of El Plan de Santa Barbara, in which
Chicano students and community members defined the aims of higher education for
WHAT IS THE CONTEXT FOR CHICANOS' PARTICIPATION IN HIGHER
While the civil rights struggles of the 1960s were important in
shaping the aims of higher education for Chicanos, the federal government was
the source of support programs that facilitated the participation of Chicanos in
higher education, for example, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, the
G.I. Bill of Rights, the National Defense and Education Act of 1958, the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, and the Higher Education Act of 1965. These programs were
the initial bridges that brought the Chicano population into institutions of
higher education in relatively substantial numbers.
While they facilitated the entry of Chicanos into higher education, these
programs also reinforced the subordinate status of Chicanos in U.S. society.
Given their limited financial resources, Chicano students were channeled into
two-year colleges, where they became victims of low transfer rates to four-year
institutions and high attrition rates. Thus, the number of Chicano students at
four-year institutions has been low, even lower at some more prestigious
institutions of higher education.
HOW ARE CHICANOS REPRESENTED IN HIGHER EDUCATION?
the best indicator of the tenuous presence of Chicanos in higher education is
found in an examination of Chicano faculty. Chicano faculty are often viewed as
having embarked on "extraordinary careers" in the U.S. educational system, as
having surpassed the expectations U.S. society ascribes to them. But does higher
education recognize their extraordinary careers?
Chicano faculty, for the most part, are peripheral members of academe. On the
one hand, postsecondary institutions use them to address minority concerns. On
the other hand, white faculty do not regard them as legitimate participants in
academe. In most cases, they are regarded as impositions brought about by
litigation and social legislation. If Chicano faculty have traveled this far to
be reminded of their subordinate status in U.S. society, how can they encourage
Chicano students to embark on their own extraordinary careers?
WHAT DOES THE 21ST CENTURY HOLD FOR THE EDUCATION OF CHICANOS?
As the 21st century approaches, Chicanos must use educational attainment as a
vehicle for social change, in particular as the means for entering sectors of
U.S. society that bestow influence on participants. Through such a process,
Chicanos can transform their position in U.S. society from one of relative
disadvantage to one of relative influence.
Perhaps the most serious challenge facing Chicanos in the 21st century is
their exclusion from policy-making arenas. Numbers alone will not push Chicanos
into those arenas; they must preface their entry into policy-making arenas by
altering their socioeconomic status in U.S. society. One prerequisite for
altering one's opportunity for advancement is by enhanced educational outcomes.
Thus, Chicanos must use educational attainment as a net for gathering forces in
the shaping of policy agendas.
Astin, H., and C. Burciaga. 1981.
Chicanos in Higher Education: Progress and Attainment. ED 226 690.
Chacon, M. 1982. Chicanas in Postsecondary Education. Stanford, Calif.:
Stanford Univ., Center for Research on Women.
Olivas, M. 1979. The Dilemma of Access: Minorities in Two-Year Colleges.
Washington, D.C.: Howard Univ. Press.
Valverde, L. 1988. "The Missing Element: Hispanics at the Top in Higher
Education." Change 20: 11.