Much has been said about the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color. Particularly in the Hispanic community, the blow to Latino students has been of great concern to parents and educators alike.
However, and as the country closely watches the behavior of the Delta variant, administrators at Hispanic-serving community colleges across the country say they are more optimistic about student enrollment numbers, particularly compared to last year, NBC Latino reported.
“We’re showing right now that we’re about 13 percent ahead of last fall, and I’m really pleased to see that,” William Serrata, president of El Paso Community College in Texas, told NBC News. “We could be potentially passing last year’s enrollment numbers.”
Like other institutions of higher learning, EPCC modified its procedures to address greater flexibility during the pandemic, allowing enrollment through the first week of the semester, which began last week. Of its more than 30,000 students, 85% are Latino.
“We’re slowly but surely getting there, and that to me shows that we are heading in the right direction. Although, I don’t expect to fully reach that until the delta variant is under control,” said Serrata, a board member of the American Association of Community Colleges.
Between outreach campaigns, where students were offered a range of assistance such as reminding them of deadlines, helping them fill out financial aid paperwork, and directing them to tutoring or mental health services, these schools have also earmarked federal funds to forgive student debt from March 2020 to the present, amounting to about $4.2 million.
“This has allowed students to start fresh, and we’re pleased that the Biden administration has allowed us to use federal dollars for this,” Serrata said. “El Paso has received about $120 million in federal aid, of which $70 million is for students. We’re making sure that students have access to these resources.”
Other institutions, such as Miami Dade College and the City University of New York (CUNY), are particularly involved in reaching out to recent Latino high school graduates and providing them with a direct pathway to college.
Institutions are also adopting measures such as social distancing, extra cleaning, and masks — and, in some cases like CUNY, mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations or serving as vaccination sites — to help ensure Latino students a safe fall semester.
With information from NBC News.