CHCI President & CEO Esther Aguilera
Statement on State of the Union


Keeping the Promise of the American Dream for Latinos: Education First



In his speech last night, President Obama stressed our nation’s commitment to keep the promise of the American Dream alive by working together “to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build” other nations in the new global economy.

I agree, but would argue that it starts with making the United States number one in the world once again in college graduation rates. The U.S. now ranks tenth in the world in college completion for adults 25-34. Education needs to be the first priority – especially for Latinos.

Today, higher education is not just a pathway to opportunity – it is a prerequisite. Over the next decade, nearly 80 percent of new jobs in this country will require advanced workforce training and/or post-secondary education.

Currently Latino children account for the largest percentage of the elementary school population, yet continue to lag dramatically behind other demographic groups in high school and college graduation rates. By 2020, one out every two new entrants into the U.S. workforce will be Latino. Clearly, increasing the educational attainment rate of Latinos is a national imperative and must be at the forefront of any investment in this country’s future.

To address this critical need, the Board of Directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHCI) recently passed a unanimous resolution in support of the Lumina Foundation for Education, The Gates Foundation, key educational partners, as well the Administration to increase to 60 percent by 2025 the national college graduation rate for all Americans. To reach this goal and have the U.S. regain its education leadership status in the world will require engaging in programs and activities to improve the Latino college completion rate.

CHCI will launch this effort in April, with a series of education policy forums that will bring together leading education experts, advocates, and practitioners. We will host panels in cities from Los Angeles to New York to examine the unique education challenges facing young Latinos, define the barriers to higher education attainment for Latinos, and identify best practices for addressing these to reach the 60 percent goal by 2025.

CHCI will share this vital information with other organizations and work collaboratively to ensure that together, we keep the promise of the American Dream accessible for the next generation – and that Latinos are part of that promise.

Esther Aguilera is President & CEO of CHCI. Since 1978, CHCI has been developing the next generation of Latino leaders by providing higher education attainment support, hands on public policy experience on Capitol Hill, and proven leadership development curriculum. Today more than 5,400 CHCI Alumni across the country are Latino leaders in all sectors of U.S. society – public, private, and non-profit.

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