We Heard You President Obama! A Guide to Educational Resources for Latino Families

Something that resonated loud and clear to us from President Obama’s appearance on last night’s Univision town hall broadcast on Latino education was that if we don’t improve education, specifically for Latinos, then “we won’t succeed as a nation.”

"This is an issue that's not just important for the Latino community here in the United States; this is an issue that is critical for the success of America generally," Obama said.

We hear you, Mr. President! Therefore, to reiterate the importance of Obama’s message with urgency, we compiled a resource guide to navigate you through educational opportunities—for students and parents.

Early Education Programs

Don’t forget, any child, regardless of immigration status, is eligible for free, high-quality, primary and secondary education (K-12 public education) under a 1982 Supreme Court decision. The Urban Institute offers a publication titled Early Education Programs and Children of Immigrants: Learning Each Other’s Language, for immigrant families who are having trouble accessing quality programs.


Bilingual Education and Immersion Programs

Bilingual education, also known as two-way or dual-language immersion programs, promotes “bilingualism and bi-literacy, grade level academic achievement, and positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors.” The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) offers a directory of over 300 two-way bilingual immersion programs in the U.S.

For an in-depth introduction to two-way immersion read, “The Way Immersion 101: Designing and Implementing a Two-Way Immersion Education Program at the Elementary Level” by Liz Howard and Donna Christian. You can download the report on CAL.


College Acceptance, Advice and Funding for Immigrants

Some states have passed laws to allow illegal immigrants to register at public colleges and universities as residents in order to be eligible for in-state tuition and grants/scholarships. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 states offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants: Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and California.

There are some qualifications before you can receive the lower tuition rates, though. The criteria may slightly vary depending on the state and constitution, but generally they consist of:

1. You must have attended a few years of high school in the state.

2. You must have graduated from a high school or obtained a GED in the state.

3. You must sign an affidavit saying that you will file an application to legalize your immigration status as soon as you are eligible to do so.

Make sure to check with your state’s constitution for specifics.


The DREAM Act and Other Opportunities for Immigrants

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, (The DREAM Act), which Obama mentioned last night, would help undocumented immigrants who have attended and graduated high school in the U.S. When one completes two years of higher education or two years of military service, the U.S. government would provide financial aid for college and a shorter path to citizenship. Unfortunately, the DREAM Act has yet to pass. Until then, undocumented immigrants can look for in-state tuition rates and scholarships.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) offers leadership programs, employment opportunities and scholarship resources, regardless of status of citizenship. What’s great about MALDEF is that they offer a list of scholarships for those who are undocumented!


Improving Teacher Quality

You can find free teaching resources from the federal government at Federal Resources for Educational Excellence.


Parental Involvement

Get involved in your child’s education, from the bud of a homework idea to choosing the right college. The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) provides parents with tools to help their children succeed. Here are a few tips of our own:

1. Sign up for the school’s newsletter. Stay up-to-date on upcoming events, fundraisers and meetings.

2. Get involved. See what interests your child and make it important to you too!

3. Speak up! If you want change in your student’s education, advocate. Reach out to a board member or appropriate representative and address a matter that needs attention.


College Funding

The U.S. Department of Education gives you a step-by-step of what to do first when interested in college funding.

To find out if you’re eligible for financial aid (things like grants, loans, and work-study programs) complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA also offers advice for parents and students on how to prepare, financially and academically.

Don’t forget scholarships. It’s free money! Below are a list of online resources, including scholarship databases, for planning and preparing for college.

1. Scholarships

2. Fastweb

3. KnowHow2Go

4. College Access


It doesn’t stop here.  Spread the word and take action!