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May 15, 2020 — Lessons from the Great Recession suggest that as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, the rules of the marketplace will have changed, and the impact will fall disproportionately on the Latinx community.

Circumstances many Latinx students faced when the pandemic hit may discourage them from staying in school when in fact, getting that college degree has never been more important.

According to a report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University called “America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots,” more than 95% of jobs created during the last economic recovery went to workers with a college education while those with a high school diploma or less were left behind.

As one of the nation’s Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) academic leaders have mobilized a campaign to encourage Latinx students to stay in college and finish on time so all will be prepared for the post-pandemic future.

“We understand the disproportionate impact that this crisis has on our most vulnerable students,” said CSUCI President Erika D. Beck, Ph.D., during a recent news conference organized by Excelencia in Education. "I think it also highlights the role that Hispanic-Serving Institutions will play as a bridge to a post-pandemic future, as well as a post-pandemic economy and society."

Excelencia in Education is a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization devoted to accelerating Latino student success in higher education. Excelencia in Education President Sarita Brown said many Latinx students attending HSIs are the first in their family to attend college, and often have fewer financial resources.

“Overnight, these students are have had to deal with the cost of moving home,” Brown said. “Further, if your parents’ work has evaporated, what do you do? For many students who still have jobs they take responsibility and some become the sole breadwinner for the entire family.”

These pressures are always there for a first generation student, Brown said, but the pressure has increased tenfold with the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn. According to the Pew Research Center, the Great Recession saw Latinx median household wealth plummet from $18,359 in 2005 to $6,325 in 2009, the largest of any racial or ethnic group.

Brown said she is impressed at the speed and efficiency universities and colleges have shown as they pivoted online. Still, Latinx students from families and communities with fewer financial resources are confronting technology barriers when trying to continue classes online.

“They return to communities that don’t have very good coverage or do not have ample broadband,” Brown said. “They also may not have devices for every family member and recognize their brothers and sisters need to learn online too.”

As CSUCI works on long-term strategies to ensure Latinx students stay in school and graduate on time, the University is launching a summer campaign designed to stay in touch and support all students—especially Latinx students, who make up more than half of the student body.

“Part of what we’re doing is using the Channel Your Success campaign to re-engage, reconnect and re-recruit our students,” said Associate Vice Provost for Student Success and Community Engagement Amanda Quintero, Ph.D.

Quintero said CSUCI is expanding on the Channel Your Success campaign—an ongoing effort aimed at providing first generation and Latinx students a network of resources including peer and faculty mentoring, so they can thrive at school and graduate on time.

The new campaign: “Channel Your Success: Believe, Belong, Become” will be designed to reach students who may need extra inspiration and support during this challenging time. The message, Quintero said, is to remind all students that they should believe in themselves, they belong on a college campus, and they can become a professional in a promising career.

Because they are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, the campaign is taking special care to reach CSUCI’s Latinx and first generation college students.

“What this pandemic has done is magnify the inequities like never before,” Quintero said. “When we were coming to campus, the students could come and be visible and maybe get away and find a quiet place to study. Now that all of them are working in cyberspace, we have to double down on our efforts for these students who have historically felt as though they didn’t belong in higher education.”

Quintero and a special committee are in the process of shaping the summer campaign, which will include intentional messages and prompts to action for these students at this critical time.

“There is a narrative out there for students to take a time out or a gap year, but our students don’t have that luxury. For them to give up their spot in higher education now? They fought for that, and it took many generations of not being here to have even one of them in higher education now,” Quintero said. “If we lose sight of that, we may never get these students back. Our students need a counternarrative one that inspires our students to continue on this path of social mobility and not to give up on their dreams. As an HSI, we must offer a message of hope and resilience. We cannot afford to fail our students as the loss of their talent impacts us all.”

Excelencia in Education certified CSUCI with its Seal of Excelencia in 2019, making it the only university in California to hold that designation. Brown said she has faith in institutions like CSUCI that take the designation seriously.

“Universities that truly serve Latino students, as CSUCI does, have never been more important,” Brown said. “Letting students know our country quite literally is counting on them. This is not rhetoric or hyperbole. Through this pandemic, we need Latino students’ optimism, their commitment to their families, their tenacity, their belief in themselves and a future that will be good…and a future to be written together.”

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