Today, more U.S. Latinos than ever before are taking out loans to pursue a postsecondary degree. As the cost of postsecondary education continues to rise, Latinos are faced with an increasingly limited set of options for financing their education. As a result, students who pursue a postsecondary degree often assume massive amounts of student loan debt without the promise of completing their education. Those that do graduate, still face a difficult path ahead in securing full-time employment after graduation.
This dilemma has led many researchers, and young Latinos, to question if college is worth it. This risky cost-benefit analysis threatens the success of Latinos and also the long-term economic well-being of our nation. To sustain our economy, it is important that Latinos enter in and succeed in postsecondary education. Likewise, for Latinos, the benefits of a obtaining a postsecondary degree are plentiful.
Research indicates that as you obtain an advanced degree, you expand your earning potential. The message is clear: if you advance in your education, you will make more money. Our economy also benefits from and increased cadre of high-earning citizens. At the state and federal level, there is the potential to tax these high earners at higher rate.
The more you go to school, the longer you live. There is a clear connection between obtaining a postsecondary degree and your health, including lower smoking rates and healthier lifestyles. With a postsecondary degree, Latinos are also more likely to enjoy employer provided health insurance—which help them. With consistent healthcare and longer life expectancy, there is less need for costly public health programs.
Postsecondary education provides the opportunity for students to engage in a variety of experiences that foster volunteerism. Greek life, service-learning programs and student leadership positions all provide a connection for Latinos to begin volunteering while pursuing a postsecondary degree. This is a connection endures once a student graduates and enters into the professional world.
Perhaps one of the clearest benefits of obtaining a postsecondary degree is increased levels of political engagement. The more you go to school, the more likely you are to vote in political elections. A postsecondary is crucial in producing a citizenry that will create a strong American democracy. This trend is important considering the recent low voter turnout amongst Latinos in the 2014 midterm elections. With an eye toward the 2016 presidential election the connection between education and political engagement will take center stage.
Despite the potential of incurring student loan debt, and the perceived lack of employment options upon graduation, pursuing a postsecondary education is still clearly worth it. Although, the totality of the benefits might not yet be clearly visible, it is crucial that we continue to help enroll and graduate young Latino students from postsecondary education. With the growing Latino population soon becoming college-age, it is crucial not only for these students, but for our nation’s economic, political and social future.
Amilcar Guzmán lives in the Washington D.C. area and works for CASA de Maryland. He is currently a Ph.D student at the University of Maryland and writes about Latinos and education, college access, success and student loan debt. You can follow him @AmilcarGuzman1.