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Education of U.S. Hispanics, an opportunity for Latin America

Education of U.S. Hispanics, an opportunity for Latin America

Posted by Liliana Castaño on October 01, 2014

Postsecondary education represents one of the most impressive business opportunities for Latin America in the United States: supporting the educational process for the second biggest ethnic group in the nation. There are 54.1 million Hispanics, whose success or failure is definitely going to impact the future of the United States.

Jose Castro helps us have a better understanding of this phenomenon, reflecting over the reasons why his company, Certifica Group, is consulting every day more institutions of postsecondary education in Latin America and the Caribbean. These institutions are interested in two things: to compete in their own ground, showing the accreditation from another country, U.S. preferably; and entering this growing market “the right way.”

The market is not only attractive because of the US Hispanics, it is also a great opportunity for the 18 to 20 million higher education students in Latin America, who would want their degree to have value in the American market.

Jose Castro is a Chilean entrepreneur, studied law and has an MBA from Adolfo Ibanez Management School. He has extensive experience in the education sector, including being the co-founder of an online university in the United States.

“In a global level, the primary demand a government has to fulfill in terms of education is the coverage, then ensure the quality. These two processes should be taken care of in, more or less, a simultaneous way, but in practice it is a goal that is seldom reached.” says the specialist.

In Latin America, explains Castro, this phenomenon is accompanied by the growth of the student population, specially the increase in female students. This growth opened multiple possibilities for private universities, and more recently for online programs.

In the United States also, specially in the case of the Hispanic population, there are older students with family and laboral responsibilities. That is why virtual programs are so convenient.

Obama understood the direct relation between prepared Hispanics and the success of the country

“Two years ago the president Barack Obama said that the future of U.S. depends on the development of the Hispanic population. That means that we have to work in the paradox of 2050, when United States will be the country with the most Hispanic population in the world. The fact is that if this population is not educated, if this population is not trained, we are going to have a huge issue: little opportunities of innovation. Thus, the country is should be interested in making the coverage and quality of education reach to this segment of the population.

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Some facts according to PEW:

  • The amount of Hispanics enrolled in universities grew 24% between 2009 and 2010.

  • In October of 2010 hispanic were 15% of all students ages 18 to 24 enrolled in postsecondary institutions.

  • In 2010 the amount of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 in a postsecondary institution increased by 349,000 people, compared to an increment of 88,000 African Americans, 43,000 Asians and a decrease of 320,000 white Americans.

  • Of all the Hispanics enrolled in postsecondary institutions in 2010, 46% attended a community college and 54% attended a four-year college. As opposed to 73% of white Americans, 78% Asians, and 68% African Americans who attended a four-year college.

  • Even with the great increment of Hispanics enrolled in postsecondary institutions they are still the least educated ethnic group, since not many of them complete the process. Only 13% of hispanics of ages 23 to 29 have attained a college degree. However, the number increases to 20% for Hispanics born in U.S., which can suggest a low educational level of immigrant Hispanics.

This opens the doors for quality postsecondary institutions from around the world, but specially from this continent, to work from the U.S. and at the same time introduce this quality education to Latin America. That is why it is important for postsecondary institutions to start working towards the assurance of the American quality and certifications.

However, it is even more challenging. Selling and promoting an educational product and even the development of the programs have to take into account an specific reality: Spanish speakers with a low level of English, bilingual people and Hispanics with low or no knowledge of Spanish.

According to PEW, of the 54.1 million Hispanics in U.S., 35 million speak Spanish at home. Around 38% say that Spanish is their dominant language, 25% say English is their dominant language and 36% identify themselves as bilingual.

“What’s interesting, and what someone who wants to establish a business here can’t forget, is that there is a big percentage of Spanish-speakers who behave like Americans. They have already assumed the customs of the country and prefer the English language, because that is the barrier they want to overcome. Meaning that they want a bilingual program that starts off in Spanish, but incorporates English such that it is completely in English towards the end of the career, in order to finally develop themselves in U.S..” explained the executive of Certifica Group.

If this business interests you, ask yourself:

Do I have an interest in the market of U.S. Hispanics? Do I have an interest in the Latin American market? Or, do I have interest in both markets?

“If you have interest in both markets, the only option is to do it from the United States”, and that is the experience that Jose and his team offers to the educational institutions of the hemisphere.

Some data from Certifica Group for those who want to take the risk of a transnational educational business:

  1. U.S. Hispanics have taken the decision of adopting the American lifestyle, and the product must correspond to that. Whoever does not understand that is destined to failure.

  2. Take into account all the groups of Hispanics from different nationalities, especially if you want to sell a service. A neutral Spanish is appropriate.

  3. The professors must understand the reality of the U.S. and take it to the classroom.

  4. That is why you should hire professor from the U.S., without excluding the brilliant minds of Latin America, but only if they are in contact or have lived in the U.S..

  5. The issue of financial aid is key, if you want to compete in the U.S.. Students must have access to financial aid and loans.

The paths

United States has a tradition of certification that far exceeds other systems. There are 6 accreditation agencies with around 100 years of experience. “In the United States there are about 4,300 accredited postsecondary institutions, which are voluntarily submitted to processes to ensure quality. Those are numbers way above any other country.” Castro recognizes that the American system has been through lows, but he insists the best characteristic of the country is the autocritique, which permits the constant evaluation and correction.  

The regional accreditation is the most valuable, says Jose, “... it is a 5 year process, it is a long term project, but it allows the institution to postulate the accreditation process, which takes one year, and then you become a candidate. At this point, the institution can start functioning, although it cannot give financial and and it doesn’t have the complete accreditation.

For now the Universidad Mayor de Chile along with the Tecnológico de Monterrey are the only two Latin American institutions with a regional certification and working in the United States.

“It requires a lot of courage and a lot of generosity from the leaders of the educational institution. Because the process is so long, the may start it and not get to see the results,” reflects Jose.

Now, there are other certification processes with national agencies, lasting from 18 months to 2 years. And there are also certifications that are not in the United States, with agencies in Latin America (Chile, Ecuador and Mexico).

 

Translated by Sebastian Llavaneras

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