JUNE 15, 2019


Obtaining Higher Education Is Increasingly Costly, But It’s Still the Best Option

Education is the great equalizer – this idea that getting higher education is necessary for upward economic and social mobility. This is what parents, teachers, society have been telling us for years. Americans have been sold on this idea for decades; and statistics are readily available to back up this claim.

For example, college graduates make an average of $1 to 3.4 million more over their careers than those with a high school degree. On average, people with a bachelor’s degree earned over $21,000 more per year than workers with only a high school diploma.

We also see numerous examples within our family and social circles – those with higher education achievement tend to have higher incomes.

But what happens when barriers due to rising costs are preventing more Americans from accessing higher education? How equal is it really if access to what we call the great equalizer becomes increasingly unobtainable?

The average cost of a public four-year college is $23,890 (out of state), $9,410 (in state); for a private four-year college $32,410 per year. For a public two-year college it’s $3,440 a year. This does not include other fees related to enrollment or the cost of textbooks or housing and food.

Like the “American dream” (that in the U.S. we have opportunities to live out a quality life with the benefit of owning a home, having one secure, well-paying job, and healthcare to be there for us when needed) is in danger of becoming a myth, the idea of “education as the great equalizer” is also at risk of becoming a myth.

That is if the cost of education keeps rising and keeps more Americans from obtaining a college degree. Fortunately, we’re not at that worst case scenario yet.

This is in part due to federal loans, tuition waivers (academic and needs-based), and scholarships that help to fund and offset the high cost of higher education. Also, that many college students are now working students.

Hawaii Filipinos in higher education

Despite the rising cost of higher education and rising inflation in the state (Hawaii has one of the highest cost of living in the nation), Hawaii Filipinos have been making steady progress in higher education.

They remain well-represented in the community college level as they’ve always been for decades. This could bode well for them as today’s economy rewards skills-based occupations, for example, electrician, plumbing, construction, auto mechanics, and Allied Health professions.

Filipinos are also making progress at the bachelor’s level. At UH-Manoa, in 2010 Filipino students only comprised of 7.7 percent of the total student population; in 2018 that number is now 11.8 percent.

Still, that figure is still underrepresentation based on population for this ethnic group; and the number gets worse at the graduate and professional degree level (Filipinos make-up only 4 percent of graduate students).

Transfers from two year colleges to four-year universities remain low among Filipinos, which experts say, has to do with the high cost of education and a need to earn money faster straight out of high school.

But when Filipinos do transfer to a university, they outperform their peers and have high graduation rates. From 2010 to 2018, Filipino graduation rates at UH-Manoa went up from 13.8 to 37.7 percent.

The term traditionally used of Filipinos as being “underrepresented” in higher education must be qualified to really mean that they are underrepresented in certain areas of higher education. In today’s mixed economy – where skills-based jobs often are in higher demand than some highly credentialed professions – it’s not unreasonable to say that Filipinos’ choices in higher education are actually sound and practical.

In this case, “underrepresented” which suggests a lack of something or underperforming in an area, is a bit of a misnomer.

Still, Filipinos have a ways in achieving better representation in white-collar professional jobs; and enrollment in higher education at this level is low.

Support programs like the University of Hawaii’s Student Equity, Excellence & Diversity (SEED), Pamantasan Council, and others have doing invaluable work in helping more Filipinos enroll in the university and graduate with a bachelor’s and higher degrees. Dr. Amy Agbayani, former SEED Director for decades, has been a powerful force in SEED’s success, pulling the strings to get needed funding for the program. We hope that SEED will be fortunate enough to get someone of this caliber, passion, dedication and “political smarts” to keep the momentum going.

While in high school, Filipino students and their parents must do their part and should already be planning for ways to fund higher education.

We encourage more Filipino professional, civic and club organizations to offer annual scholarships and give back to our community.

While the cost of higher education is an enormous obstacle for students and their parents, getting a college degree is still the best option available. Choosing the right major based on the job market is also one of the most crucial choices to make, something that should also be explored while students are in high school.

Congratulations and mabuhay to our recent graduates and their parents.


Xenophobia in Schools Is Unacceptable?

The Washington Post reported on a story that showed just how ugly xenophobia can be in these times and how it is happening in the unlikeliest of places.

The incident involves a typical citizen who otherwise would not have acted on her bigoted impulses if it weren’t for President Trump being elected. It involves the growing weaponizing of ICE. It involves social media as an increasing platform of hate. And lastly, it involves immigrants – often presumed to be illegal because of the color of their skin -- having to experience demeaning discrimination. What’s particularly disturbing in this incident is that these immigrants are children and were targeted in school.

The incident

English teacher Georgia Clark at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth, TX wrote a string of anti-immigrant comments to President Trump on Twitter.

She tweeted to Trump (claiming that she believed her public tweets were private messages to Trump): “I do not know what to do. Anything you can do to remove the illegals from Fort Worth would be greatly appreciated…”

In another tweet: “Mr. President, Fort Worth Independent School District is loaded with illegal students from Mexico. Carter-Riverside High School has been taken over by them. Drug dealers are on our campus and nothing was done to them when the drug dogs found evidence.” There was no evidence to substantiate her remarks.

She sent other tweets claiming to have reached out to ICE and federal law enforcement to assist her, and claimed Trump was elected “on the promise that a wall would be built to protect our borders.”

Prior to these tweets surfacing, it turns out that Clark was already under investigation for other racial incidences. In one, she allegedly asked one student who requested to use the bathroom: “Show me your papers that are saying you are legal.”

She also allegedly separated students in her class by race, “Mexicans on one side and the white and black people on another side,” a student said. In a separate incident she referred to Latino students as “little Mexico.”

Clark is currently under paid administrative leave while an investigation is conducted. She has hired an attorney, admitted to twitter posts, but denies other allegations.

Wrong setting, wrong occupation

Clark must be reminded that the role of educators is not to enforce immigration laws, nor should it be about judging where their students were born or how they came into the country. As a teacher, Clark grossly overstepped the boundaries of her occupation.

Most educators know that their primary mission is to prepare students for academic rigors that hopefully could be of use in college or a university, and eventually their select professions. Hateful prejudice of an authority figure (as teachers are looked upon by students) is one of the most harmful forms of discrimination there is. A student cannot simply just walk away from it; and in many cases, their grades and their future are in the hands of teachers.

Fort Worth Independent School District (in which Clark’s high school falls under) must not only investigate the matter, but ensure that these kinds of incidences do not happen in their schools again. In fact, all school boards nationwide should work to ensure that students are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. All students, including undocumented immigrants (which could not be determined by school staff, anyway) should be afforded the same professional standards by their teachers.

Teachers have guidelines of proper conduct that cannot be abandoned just because it’s perceived to be “politically safe” under the current president. This idea that “if the president can get away with it, so could I” – cannot be tolerated in a school setting, especially in the primary and secondary levels.

One bad apple?

It’s unlikely that the Clark incident is the first nor will it be the last of its kind. As more minorities encounter discrimination – the most common form of late being anti-immigrant prejudice – communities must push back and hold these violators accountable. It’s even more critical to fight back against anti-immigrant discrimination when they occur in schools or the workplace because these settings have real impactful consequences.

New rules should be adopted by School Districts regarding the use of social media. If certain opinions expressed on social media by teachers interfere with their job duties (in this case, politically incendiary remarks), they should be dismissed. With policies in place, this should protect both teachers and students from unacceptable behavior.

Professional organizations, government and private Human Resources should also consider providing a workplace workshop after policies have been adopted, similar to workplace sexual harassment seminars. Unfortunately, the signs of the times warrant that adults must be reminded how not to behave

Kudos to the Washington Post and other news media that picked up this story and brought national attention to it. It could serve as a sober warning to other bigots who have been emboldened in recent years – that discrimination is against the law and could get you fired from your job.

Leave law enforcement to the professionals. Regular citizens acting on paranoia over which immigrant is documented or undocumented can only lead to hostility and division.

Our communities must now be even more vigilant and not allow the new norms of this presidency to be the new norms at the places we study and work.

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