Still, the immigrant cohort lags the overall population in enrolling in or completing postsecondary education.
Some students encounter these obstacles even before applying for college.
Out of 100 Hispanics, only 63 will graduate from high school, and in some parts of the country, more than 50 percent won’t complete high school, said Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president for education on the White House Domestic Policy Council, during an event in Washington last week. “It’s imperative to improve those outcomes,” he said.
“The emphasis should be in—stay in school, most of all,” said Ana Recio Harvey, assistant administrator for Women’s Business Ownership at the Small Business Administration. Parents and educators must then elevate the conversation to help students strategize and get them to “think about what’s going to be in your future.”
Asian Americans are more likely to mirror the overall student population on parent educational attainment—another predictor of college completion. Among Asian immigrants, about 38 percent said their parents did not attend college, compared with 33 percent of the overall population. Those numbers improve for the second-generation Asian Americans; only 28 percent had parents with no postsecondary education.
THE KU FAMILY STORY
Ku also had the guidance of the California woman for whom his mother tended house in largely upscale Marin County. An Iranian immigrant herself, she became a second mother figure to Ku. “She would monitor our studies. She wanted us to do well,” he said, recalling how she would help him and his siblings with school projects.
And there was something else. He grew up watching his parents work long hours to give their children a better life. His mother is proud that Ku is preparing to apply to doctoral programs in some of the nation’s top universities.
“As the first generation to grow up in this country, I can say there’s sometimes friction,” he said of his relationship with his parents. “But I can also appreciate what they’ve done and what they’ve had to go through.” The best gift he can give them, he said, is to finish his education.