In Texas, 29 percent of people over the age of 25 have college degrees. Among Latinos, that number drops to 12.3 percent. That gap in education is a cause for concern to Orlando Espinosa. Espinosa is a spokesman for the Sallie Mae Fund and says they conducted a national study that shows 43 percent of Latino young adults are not aware of a single source of college financial aid.
"A lot of the students didn't know the process of admissions, and uh, they didn't apply because of the lack of information because they weren't informed. And uh, a lot of them didn't go to college also because of financial need because a lot of felt that they had to pay out of pocket, uh, not knowing that there's federal aid, not knowing that there's state aid, institutional aid, that there are scholarships out there that, that umm are available and the main thing they have to do is apply."
And the parents of students know even less about scholarships and grants. More than half of Latino parents believe they must pay for all of their children's college tuition. And many of them fall prey to scams in their efforts to send their children to school.
"They think that they, number one, have to pay out of pocket for their son or daughter's education, and then when an organization comes along and says 'Hey! Listen, you know what? Come to this workshop, we'll provide you all this information, but there's a fee.' And I've heard parents that pay from, anywhere from a thousand to three thousand dollars and that's because they really don't know what's out there and what's available. And there's free information and we want to make sure that the students are communicating with their parents and letting the parents know that they have to be cautious of those scams."
In an effort to educate the Latino population about the college process, the Sallie Mae Fund is touring the country, holding workshops and meetings for parents and students. The workshops are presented in both Spanish and English and Espinosa says they cover everything from the types of scholarships available, to practical tips for students.
"Just simple things about having a professional email, uh that sometimes they don't think of because, you know it's like they're so used to it, or even having a professional message on their cell phone. Um, when you work in the professional world you notice those things, because when you call a place of business, um, they answer the phone professionally. And that's the main thing that we want to get out there is that there's simple things that they need to do in order to, umm, to be ahead."
There are two workshops open to the public in Houston. One is tomorrow at 11am at Galena Park High School. Another workshop will be held Tuesday evening at 7pm at Davis Senior High School.