As the United States commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month, one question looms large: Are Latino/e college students poised to redefine the nation’s future? Well, Census data reveals some compelling statistics about young Latinos in higher education. With rising high school completion rates, increased college enrollment, and a surge in educational attainment, young Latinos are making significant strides in higher education within the United States.
The numbers tell a compelling story of progress. Among 2.4 million Latinos/es in 2021, between the ages of 18 and 24, are enrolled in college – which is an increase from 1.2 million in 2005. This surge in Hispanic college enrollment speaks volumes about the community’s unwavering commitment to education and their determination to contribute to a brighter tomorrow.
But statistics alone do not paint the full picture. To gain deeper insights into this educational revolution and its broader implications, we turn our attention to “Fight for Freedoms College Tour,” initiative led by Vice President Kamala Harris.
In an exclusive interview with BELatina, Vice President Harris shared insights about the “Fight for Freedoms College Tour” and how it can mobilize college students from historically overlooked communities to shape the nation’s destiny.
Thank you for the warm welcome, @_HamptonU!
You’re not only the leaders of tomorrow, you’re the leaders of today. pic.twitter.com/fQ8QmGuA8l
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) September 14, 2023
Vice President Kamala Harris on the ‘Fight for Freedoms College Tour’
Vice President Harris’s nationwide tour brings her to historically Black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, community colleges, and apprenticeship programs across the country. Her mission is clear: to remind these young leaders of the immense stakes they hold in shaping the future of their nation.
“I am in the Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour because I believe that all our young people should have the freedom to live their best lives,” Vice President Harris said during a phone interview with BELatina.
The “Fight for Freedoms College Tour” is a rallying cry for young individuals to embrace the freedom to lead fulfilling lives. This freedom encompasses the autonomy to make decisions about their bodies, the liberty to love without constraints, and, crucially, access to the ballot box to exercise their civic duty. The Vice President emphasizes that all these freedoms are currently at risk in our country.
For her tour, Vice President Harris has chosen colleges with diverse student bodies, many of which represent historically excluded communities.
Empowering the Latino/e Community
During our conversation, she highlighted the pivotal role that Latinos, especially Latinas, play in driving the growth of new small businesses.
“Latinos are helping to lead around the growth of new small businesses, and Latinas within that population are taking the lead,” said Vice President Harris. “President Biden and I have put a lot of resources into making sure that Latino small business owners have access to capital.”
Furthermore, Vice President Harris revealed a commitment to increasing federal contracts for minority-owned businesses by 50 percent. She emphasized the importance of enabling entrepreneurship and economic growth within the Latino community.
“They need access to capital. If they’re running a small business and want to grow that business, they need more access to capital,” VP Harris said. “I’ve actually been responsible for helping to put $12 billion into the community banks in our country to help with that.”
The Latino/e community is still the fastest-growing demographic in the United States and is continuously proving its buying power. Currently, U.S. Hispanics’ annual buying power is set to exceed over $2 trillion dollars this year. Yet, the community still struggles.
In fact, the Latino/e demographic is often overlooked when it comes to investments, especially with venture capitalists. However, with the help of programs focused on helping the Latino/e build wealth, the more they will all be able to prosper.
Reducing the cost of living is another vital aspect of their strategy. For instance, the administration has capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for seniors, providing much-needed relief for the Latino population, who are 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. Additionally, annual prescription medication costs have been limited to $2,000, relieving the financial burden on seniors.
The administration is also working diligently to improve access to high-speed internet, acknowledging the pivotal role it plays in education and daily life. The goal is to ensure that every family has affordable access to high-speed internet, thus eliminating disparities in access that became even more apparent during the pandemic.
What the Community Can Do
Vice President Harris also spoke about the transformative power of voting, particularly for underserved communities like the Latino/e population. She described voting as one of the most effective means for individuals to make a difference in their communities and their country. Voting is the voice of the people, and it should not go unheard.
“Voting is one of the most effective ways that you can make a difference,” she explained. “And so, I think about the vote for each person as being about their voice. It’s so important that people are not silent when there’s so much at stake.”
It is of note that first-time young Latino/e voters are on the rise and are expected to make their presence be felt in the upcoming election year.
Vice President Harris discussed the importance of voting in conjunction with various other rights. It is through the act of voting that people can elect representatives who will advocate for these vital causes.
She encouraged everyone to exercise their right to vote and to check their voter registration status at vote.gov.
What Else Is the Tour Covering?
Recognizing the ongoing climate crisis, the Biden-Harris administration has committed to historic investments totaling $1 trillion aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These investments include promoting electric vehicles, providing homeowners with rebates for HVAC system upgrades, and bolstering wind and solar power infrastructure.
Crucially, the administration is attentive to the impact of climate change on communities of color, low-income communities, and immigrant communities, recognizing that these communities often bear the brunt of environmental challenges.
After all, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Latinos/es in the U.S. are more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to experience heat waves, powerful hurricanes, sea level rise and floods.
“We need to pay attention to what all communities need to be able to build back up after an extreme weather event, but also what we need to do to invest in a new economy, which is called the Clean Energy Economy,” the Vice President said in the BELatina interview.
Vice President Harris’s “Fight for Freedoms College Tour” is not just a tour — it’s a movement that hopes to empower young individuals and students from diverse backgrounds across the nation.
Are you close to one of her stops? Check out the campuses she’ll be visiting below:
- Hampton University in Hampton, VA on 9/14
- North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, NC on 9/15
- Reading Area Community College in Reading, PA on 9/19
- Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA on 9/26
- University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, WI on 10/4
- College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, NV on 10/12
- Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ on 10/17