The U.S. Census data are clear: In the coming years, America’s Latina/o community will continue to drive population and labor force growth. Therefore, federal and state policymakers, higher education leaders, and communities small and large across the pre-K to college continuum would be wise to seize this sizeable demographic shift to help propel the United States into a position of economic and social prosperity. Yet, as advocates have articulated, improving the proportion of Latinas/os that access and complete college armed with the knowledge and skills to compete in the 21st century will require much work. The pressing reality is that men of color, and Latino males in particular, lag significantly behind their female peers in terms of both college access and degree attainment. This situation weakens the nation’s ability to utilize its great human capital and ensure the success of its diverse families and communities.
This brief seeks to elevate the grave statistics and realities of the growing gender gap in educational attainment among Latinas/os and provides recommendations for education practitioners, institutional leaders, and federal and state policymakers on how to support Latino males on the road to and through college and into the workforce. A first step in ensuring the success of Latino males is to provide information and strategies for stakeholders at the federal, state, regional, and local levels to both embrace and implement a comprehensive agenda that spans early childhood through college. This agenda should emphasize family and community engagement; college and career-ready curricula; linked academic and social supports; and affordability, transparency, and financial literacy. To that end, the authors provide (1) a review of recent census and educational attainment data and related transition points in early childhood, secondary, and postsecondary education for Latinas/os; (2) a promising blueprint to help develop and implement education programs and initiatives to increase the success of Latino male students; and (3) policy and programmatic implications for stakeholders seeking to enact change at the pre-college and college levels and within national, state, and local contexts. Such a comprehensive approach must prioritize the needs of Latino males and value their cultural contexts. Missing this opportunity to provide economic and social advancement for this community will have a profound impact on the future of U.S. citizens and the nation’s economy.