by Sarah Einselen
— NOTE: The original text of this article incorrectly stated that Deferred Action students are eligible for federal financial aid and in-state tuition. Several states have allowed Deferred Action students to pay in-state tuition, but Indiana is not one of them. Below is the corrected text. We regret the error.
Jorge Rojas, 38, wants his son Bryan Martínez to go to college. But it’s easier said than done.
“He has to go if he wants a better future,” said Rojas, a waiter at El Arriero’s restaurant in Logansport, but the difficulty is “just economic challenges. We’re not sure we’re going to be able to do it.”
Bryan, a 16-year-old junior at Logansport High School, wants to attend college, too. “But I’m not sure what I want to study,” he said.
He was one of at least 20 LHS students to attend an outreach dinner for Hispanic students and their families Tuesday night at the high school. The dinner inaugurated the school’s “Bienvenidos al colegio Ivy Tech” partnership with Ivy Tech in Logansport to encourage Hispanic students to attend college and help them along the process.
About 60 parents, high school students and siblings attended the dinner, where representatives from Ivy Tech spoke through translators about Ivy Tech’s programs, and a lawyer familiar with immigration law addressed parents whose students may be eligible for Deferred Action status under recent changes to immigration regulations.
A few LHS alumni were also on hand to talk to students informally about their college experiences.
While about 27 percent of LHS students describe themselves as Hispanic, just 4 percent of students at Logansport’s Ivy Tech campus do, said Krysten Hinkle, associate director of admissions for Ivy Tech-Logansport.
“We, as a community college, should be accurately reflecting the demographics of our community, which is not happening right now,” Hinkle said. “That being said, we are also concerned about the small number of Hispanic students going to college anywhere.”
The goal for “Bienvenidos,” said Hinkle, is to prepare Hispanic students for college, period -- wherever that may be.
Most of the parents at Tuesday’s dinner already wanted their children to go to college, organizers said.
Evangelina Lopez, whose daughter Gaby is a sophomore at LHS, said in Spanish that she wanted Gaby to attend college in order to have a better future -- including a career that pays well. Gaby is smart, Lopez explained, and she wants her daughter to take advantage of that.
LHS English language instructional staff estimate that no more than 5 percent of the school’s Hispanic students go on to college.
Financial barriers and immigration issues sometimes keep Hispanic students from continuing their education, said Emily Graham, English language coordinator for Logansport Community School Corporation. And sometimes teenagers feel obligated to help their parents by earning an income immediately after high school, even though their families want them to attend college.
“Their motivation is high and their grades are just as good as anybody else’s,” Graham said. But “a lot of these kids have a lot of household obligations and feel compelled to help out financially.”
That’s what Hinkle has heard from some of the 39 Hispanic students at Ivy Tech, too.
“Others have voiced that while they cannot afford to pay tuition out-of-pocket, they perceive financial aid to be a form of welfare and are unwilling to apply,” Hinkle added. And undocumented students can’t get any type of financial aid and must pay out-of-state tuition, which is more than double in-state tuition.
It doesn’t help that most Hispanic parents haven’t even finished high school, said Mayra Romero, an English language instructional assistant at LHS who’s studying nursing at Ivy Tech.
“These kids have great potential, but it comes down to money, really,” she said.
Elisa Banuelos-Cortes, an English language liaison for the school, said parents who haven’t been to college can feel lost amid college applications and scholarship processes.
“The parents don’t have a lot of information about it,” Banuelos-Cortes said. “Most of them are first-generation, and the parents don’t have an idea of the processes involved.”
After Tuesday’s dinner, Ivy Tech plans to send representatives to LHS every other week to give students one-on-one help with college applications, financial aid and other processes related to getting to college. LHS will also send Hispanic students on field trips to regional colleges like Ivy Tech-Logansport and Indiana University-Kokomo.
Hinkle said once Hispanic students enroll in college, they do well academically. It’s just the process of getting in that daunts many would-be Hispanic college students.
“When push comes to shove, sometimes they just really need somebody to guide them through it,” she said. “The kids are eager. The kids are excited. They’re more than capable.”
• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com or 574-732-5151.