Idaho is failing. The state received a grade of an "F" in a new national education study that tallies the number of Hispanics with college degrees. Idaho ranked dead last in the nation.
The College of Western Idaho has started a new outreach program to the Hispanic community both on and off campus. Local community college leaders realize they must do more to help this so-called gap population. "We have also seen a gap in terms of how many students of minority and special populations are coming into the institution than the greater majority. Not only that we've seen a difference in our retention rate," says CWI's Director of Admissions Luis Caloca. Just recently, CWI started using cultural activities to keep students engaged in school. It's something Angelica Vazquez Molina wished she had during her first year at CWI. "It was crazy hard for me. I was working two jobs, trying to balance school work and I still volunteered on the weekends as well," says Vazquez Molina.
Angelica admits there were times she thought about giving up on her education and a new study shows she's not alone. In Idaho, only 12.7% of Hispanic adults hold a two or four-year college degree. That's almost 10% below the national average. Idaho has a goal to reach by 20-25. The state wants 60% of all 25-34 year olds to attain a college degree or certification. To make that goal, lawmakers and educators must focus on helping more Latinos continue their education after high school.
CWI administrators are working to change those statistics by building relationships between students and with faculty. "They sometimes tend to feel isolated if there isn't a specific event, people to go to orient them into the college environment, college lifestyle what it will be like. So, we are trying to make sure these individuals connected to staff members at the institution," says Caloca. CWI is also starting a mentoring program. Angelica is now trained to help incoming students navigate college life. She believes with guidance, more Latinos will feel empowered to not only try college, but complete it.