More than 10 years have passed since she gave up her pursuit of a degree in computer science, but Yajahira Deaza still has regrets.
"I feel incomplete," says the 33-year-old, a customer service representative for a major New York bank. Her experience reflects the findings of an Associated Press-Univision poll that examined the attitudes of Latino adults toward higher education.
Despite strong belief in the value of a college diploma, Hispanics more often than not fall short of that goal.
The poll's findings have broad implications not only for educators and parents, but also for the U.S. economy.
In the next decade, U.S. companies will have to fill millions of jobs to replace well-trained baby boomers going into retirement. As the nation's largest minority group, Latinos account for a growing share of the pool of workers, yet their skills may not be up to par. ...
"Aspirations for higher education are very strong among Hispanics, but there is a yawning discrepancy between aspirations and actual attainment," said Richard Fry, an education researcher at the Pew Hispanic Center.
Indeed, the poll, also sponsored by The Nielsen Company and Stanford University, found that Hispanics value higher education more than do Americans as a whole. Eighty-seven percent said a college education is extremely or very important, compared with 78% of the overall U.S. population.
Ninety-four percent of Latinos say they expect their own children to go to college, a desire that's slightly stronger for girls. Seventy-four percent said the most important goal for a girl right after high school is to attend a four-year college, compared with 71% for boys.
Enthusiasm about higher education hasn't been matched by results.
Census figures show that only 13% of Hispanics have a college degree or higher, compared with 30% among Americans overall.
The poll revealed some of the roadblocks: Latinos do not have enough money, yet many are reluctant to borrow.
Buying an expensive California house with a zero-down subprime mortgage isn't really "borrowing." It's investing in the American Dream!
In the poll, just 29% cited poor grades in high school as an extremely or very important reason for not going to college.
... Deaza, the New York bank employee, said that is why she had to leave her computer studies back in the late 1990s. A single mom-to-be, she was expecting her first child, a daughter who's now 11.