Universities Can Help Latin American Community Recover From COVID | Opinion


By Katia Paz-Goldfarb

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration of traditions and history that are dear to millions of Hispanic Americans.

This week we also celebrate Institutions Serving Hispanics Week (HSI), an initiative undertaken by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to highlight the work that higher education institutions and universities with total student populations are over 25% Hispanic, do to create access to higher education opportunities for traditionally underserved populations.

The intertwining of these two events should serve as a call to action for colleges and universities. It’s no secret that the Hispanic community has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and colleges and universities have the resources to be part of the solution and help these communities not just go to- beyond and recover from the pandemic, but also to prosper like never before.

The data quantifying the losses in our communities has been well documented. A recent report from the Center for American Progress showed Hispanics and Latinos are nearly twice as likely to contract COVID-19, four times more likely to be hospitalized, and nearly three times more likely to die from the virus. We also accounted for 23% of the initial job losses at the start of the pandemic, while representing only 16% of the total population.

Our children and young adults are also feeling the effects. Once the fastest growing demographic of university applicants, national enrollment data in the spring of 2021 shows a drop of more than 5% in applications among our population, for reasons such as loss of income and health problems linked to the pandemic.

And there are still long-term impacts that remain to be defined. But while the problem has been widely covered, not enough attention has been paid to what is – and can be – done to solve it.

This is where colleges and universities can serve the public and prepare the next generation of professionals.

At Montclair State University, we are committed to upholding our status as the Federally Designated Greatest Institution Serving Hispanics in New Jersey. But that doesn’t just mean we are just enrolling Hispanic students – we are also providing them with comprehensive programs and holistic support throughout their college careers to ensure that they not only succeed here, but become successful. problem solvers and leaders in their respective communities. after graduation.

This month alone, our Hispanic Heritage Month programming will include a panel discussion on what it’s like to be a bank examiner, a conversation with Valley Bank about internship opportunities and entry-level jobs, a webinar with Google to discuss available internships and a panel discussion with three Hispanic United Nations diplomats from Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic on their journey to leadership positions.

We also reach out to the communities we serve and offer pre-college programs that provide resources for high school students and their families in English and Spanish. Our Hispanic Student College Institute and Pre-College Institute are offered each summer to juniors and seniors to strengthen their knowledge of applying and transitioning to college, as well as future academic success.

But we can do more than that. The academic community can also serve as a mechanism to properly quantify and document the long-term effects of the pandemic through research, scholarship, and conversations with policymakers and community organizations.

This summer, we hosted the “Build & Broaden: Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19 on Latino Communities in the Tri-State Area” Conference, funded by the National Science Foundation, funded by the National Science Foundation. A forum for presenting timely research findings on this critical topic, the conference also served as a space to connect and intentionally support HEI professors / scholars / researchers in their continuing research efforts. Providing opportunities like this for academics to connect around a central issue will be essential as we try to understand the true gravity of what has happened and develop solutions to a problem that will impact people. generations of Hispanic Americans.

Whether or not an institution is a designated HSI, colleges and universities can serve as agents of change to help all communities recover from the pandemic. During Hispanic Heritage Month and HSI Week, we must remember that the Latin American community has been ravaged by the pandemic – and we have all the resources we need within the walls of our higher education institutions to serve the public good and help them recover.

Katia Paz-Goldfarb is the Senior Associate for Hispanic Initiatives and International Programs at Montclair State University.

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