The Higher Education Crisis in Arizona

In the past decades, we have seen an increase in the Latino population in Arizona with the Latino to White ratio increasing from 26:63 to 41:44 from 1980 to 2000 (Latinos, Whites and the Shifting Demography of Arizona, 2010). In the Last U.S census completed in 2010 the Latino population surpassed the White population with Arizona being comprised of 49% Latinos and 37% White, not counting the undocumented population in Arizona. We are also seeing an increasing momentum of a youthful Latino population in Arizona, with the gap closing between the number of white and Latino residents ranging from ages 0–34 years old. (Latinos, Whites and the Shifting Demography of Arizona, 2010).

This shift in the Latino population has created a need for different types of services that are culturally appropriate, like physicians, dentist, nurses, teachers, professors, therapist and other crucial professionals involved in the everyday life of anyone, regardless of race or color. Unfortunately, though, we are seeing a huge gap between these professions and the increasing Latino population in Arizona, specifically the Spanish speaking only Latino Population. In elementary through high school education, in 2014 it was noted that the student population in Arizona was comprised of 40% Hispanic students, and it is predicted to increase in years to come (What’s the Racial Breakdown of America’s Public School Teachers, 2018) While the population of Hispanic students has continued to increase the percentage of minority or Hispanic teachers has remained stagnant, with 80% of teacher in Arizona being white and most monolingual, and only 8.8% being Hispanic. This trend also follows for other professions too, like physicians. Nationwide only 5% of all doctors around the nation are Hispanic (AAMC Diversity and Factors Figures, 2016), and it doesn’t get any better for Arizona, a state comprised of more than 40% Hispanics.

So why in Arizona, a state where the minority is the majority, is there a lack of minorities in crucial fields like medicine and education? Because there is a lack of minorities in higher education, and Arizona has yet to find a solution.

According to the 2018 Arizona Minority Student Progress Report (2018) Hispanics make up 45% of all the students in the public education system in Arizona. Of these 45% only 72% graduate. Of these 72% most initially attend a community college, with only 17% of these students transferring to a university after 3 years of community college, and while this is a 2% increase in transfer rate after 3 years of community college, there has been a decrease overall in transfer from a community college to a university campus for the Hispanic student population. This indicates that by the time of undergrad, approximately only 5% of the 45% that are initially in the public-school system move on to a university campus. Only 5%. Only approximately 20% of Hispanics who attend a public undergraduate institution graduate with the bachelors after 4 years and 10% graduate with their bachelors after 6 years.

Moving on to graduate degrees, we see only 11% of graduate degrees awarded in 2018 to Hispanic students, followed by African Americans at 3%, and American Indians at 1%. The statistics continue to fall as we move on to doctoral degrees with 13% of doctoral degrees awarded to African Americans and only 7% of Doctoral degrees being awarded to Hispanic students at private not for profit institutions in Arizona. For public not for profit institutions, only 6% of doctoral degrees were awarded to Hispanics, 4% to African Americans and less than 2% to American Indians. When looking at Medical Degrees we see in Arizona only 5% of Hispanic students receive a DO, followed by 1% awarded to African Americans and 0% to American Indians. These numbers are slightly lower for MDs. Overall, the amount of doctoral degrees, despite Arizona having 5 medical schools has remained stagnant at a low 5–6%.

We are currently in a higher education minority crisis in Arizona, a state where the minority is the majority, and despite the rising number in Hispanic youths, we are still seeing a stagnant number of Hispanic students in higher education.

Arizona has tried to pass legislation like SB1354. This bill was meant to increase the number of funding towards residency programs in Arizona to increase the number of doctors in Arizona, specifically minority doctors. Other bills, policies and program have also been created to help support minorities in higher education. Offices like the diversity and inclusion offices at Arizona universities, and equity laws have been created to promote diversity in university campuses. Despite this, as we can see from the data, we continue on a stagnant path of minorities in higher education. One of the reasons for this is because we are not trying to fix the actual problem, a problem I call “The Pipeline Effect.”

The pipeline effect is the loss of minority students throughout the journey of high school to higher education. We can see that we start off with a grand percentage of high school students being minorities but as we move up in education we lose many on the way, to the point where we fall into the single digits in the number of minorities with graduate/doctorate degrees in a public not for profit institution.

Fixing the pipeline effect is going to take more than bills and diversity offices, it is going to take a diverse and comprehensive team starting from high school to higher education. This team will have to promote, motivate and guide minority students through the process of higher education. As a minority student completing her master’s degree, I like to say we don’t know what we don’t know, that is why we go to all these advisors and look for mentors, because they become our fountain of information. These advisors can either guide us to get to where we want to and be what we want to be or, they will push us down and we will fall, and we will just be another statistic that fell through the pipes.


Contributor writer for Medium and former contributor writer for HuffPost. I focus on disparities in education and medicine. #Latina #Hispana #Medicine

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