In 28th Annual Lecture, Ford Foundation President Calls for Greater Educational Opportunity for Latinos

Address was keynote at conference of Hispanics in higher education

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Princeton, NJ (September 10, 2012) —

This press release is also available in Spanish.

As a young boy, Luis Ubiñas grew up poor in the South Bronx. His mother, bent over her sewing machine, imagined a better future for her son. From these humble beginnings, he went on to graduate from Harvard College, where he was named a Truman Scholar, and Harvard Business School, where he graduated with highest honors. He now heads the Ford Foundation, the second-largest philanthropy in the U.S., with more than $10 billion in assets. In the just-published 28th Tomás Rivera Lecture, he offers keen perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for propelling Latinos into higher education and productive careers.

In the address he discussed questions of opportunity that face all Americans, namely, “How do we restore the belief in limitless opportunity that has always defined our unique American experience? How do we make sure every American, rich or poor, knows that if he or she is willing to work hard that — like my mother, like Tomás Rivera’s father — this country is eager for their contribution?”  These are particularly relevant in the Latino community, Ubiñas contends.

He also describes the great progress of Latinos in the past two decades and the continuing challenges facing these students. “For example,” he said, “the Latino dropout rate has fallen by almost 50 percent. It’s impressive, and a notable accomplishment. But that dropout rate is still double the national average and higher than that of any other group in the country. In math and reading, Latino fourth-graders and eighth-graders have shown significant improvement in their test scores, but they lag behind their White counterparts.”

According to Ubiñas, one solution to improving academic performance in underserved communities (a focus of the Ford Foundation), and one that is gathering momentum, is the idea of extended learning time. “The more time kids spend in school with teachers, the better off they’re going to be,” Ubiñas says. “This involves a school calendar that moves everyone to longer school days, longer school weeks and longer school years.” Earlier this year the Ford Foundation launched a national campaign promoting this idea called “Time to Succeed.”

Ubiñas also noted the benefit of community colleges where more than half of all Latinos attend. He offered examples of outstanding colleges and noted that they, “… not only provide training that is academically rigorous, they are offering a … path toward higher education.” He also called for universal transfer for community college credits and creating programs, such as the Ford Fellows, that provide financial support for scholars at the pre-doctoral, dissertation and post-doctoral levels. There are currently 2,000 Latino Ford Fellows.

“The path to success in our society today passes through college and advanced degrees,” Ubiñas said. “But let me also say that this is our responsibility. This is your responsibility. We are the vanguard of a giant generational wave. We must find ways to expand educational attainment in the Latino community. The future of this great country depends on our success.”

The Tomás Rivera Lecture may be downloaded at www.ets.org/research/pic.

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About AAHHE

The American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, Inc. (AAHHE) is an association of Hispanic faculty and administrators at U.S. colleges and universities. It supports the development of Hispanic college professionals and is dedicated to increasing the number of Hispanics in higher education, bringing issues pertinent to Hispanics to the attention of the larger academic community, and recognizing achievements of Hispanics in support of higher education. AAHHE has created a Graduate Fellows Program and a Junior Faculty Fellows Program to provide guidance, instruction and mentors to help young Latinos and Latinas navigate the complexities of higher education and better prepare for leadership positions in higher education. AAHHE bestows six annual awards to individuals who champion Hispanic higher education in the areas of leadership, faculty research, teaching, support, fine or performing arts, and literary arts or publications. For more about AAHHE, visit www.aahhe.org.