INDIANAPOLIS — A drop in the number of Latino students seeking a college degree is behind several initiatives to increase their numbers across public and private colleges and universities in Indiana.
The Indianapolis-based Indiana Latino Institute has increased its outreach efforts beyond the capital city and has partnered with several schools to expand academic scholarships to improve access to high education.
"Without education, we are limited, building barriers for our young generation to achieve to contribute to society," said Indiana Latino Institute CEO Marlene Dotson.
For the first time this year, the Institute expanded its Education and College and Career Fair to South Bend and Evansville, doubling the number of participants.
The Indianapolis event attracted 2,000 high school students but with the additional cities added a combined, 4,000 students are part of the statewide outreach.
The conference comes as the number of Latinos in Indiana is on the rise, while the number of college-bound Latino kids has dropped. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education tracks the number of high school seniors planning to go to college.
Its most recent report showed that 49% of Latinos in Indiana decided to apply for college in 2019. In 2020, the Commission’s report indicated a decrease to 44%. The figures are well below the statewide college rate of 53%.
"Know that there are possibilities out there are no obstacles, no limitations. Language is not a barrier. They can dream higher, and even higher," said Gloria Perez, a college and readiness coordinator who works with IPS students.
The college fair exposed students in Indianapolis to multiple colleges and employers including the FBI and National Guard. A majority of the area’s public and private colleges were in attendance looking for the next generation of learners.
“College is something I want to do. hear my sisters talking about college and all of that and they inspired me to do great," said Jesus Gonzalez, a senior at Arsenal Tech.
Gonzalez is interested in a program with Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. On the other side of the room, Tamara Jimenez, a senior at Lawrence North High School, is looking at her college options.
“With everything I want to do, pretty big because I want to go into healthcare," said Jimenez.
She added, “After that, I want to become a firefighter and the Chief of a station."
The Indiana Latino Institute expects to expand its higher education outreach to more parts of the state next year.