Education of Latinas in the Midwest


Our project is focusing on how Latina women obtain education in the Midwest United States. Our objective is to uncover the experience of various Latinas, with reference to their motives as well as the complications in attaining an education as a doubly marginalized group in Midwestern society. Our historical analysis of the issue will explore information gathered on the entire Latinx community, and how the dynamics of getting an education have changed. Our interview and description of the issue at present further examine the obstacles Latinas may face in the endeavor for an education. Lastly, we have provided various solutions and resources that may serve as support for any Latina woman striving for an education.

Historical Analysis

To fully understand the process of Latinas gaining an education, it is helpful in looking at the data for the U.S. Latinx community as a whole.

Population with less than a 9th-grade education 20.7% 2.7%
Population with a high school diploma or more 64.3% 91.1%
Population with a college degree or more 14.1% 32.9%
Source: American Community Survey, 2011 (Latina/o Politics and Participation, NLSR)

The figure above, taken from Lisa García Bedolla’s article Latina/o Politics and Participation: Individual Activity and Institutional Context, illustrates the stark contrast between Latinos and the total U.S. population with respect to education rates. While it can already be difficult to succeed academically as a member of the Hispanic community, it becomes more difficult when you bring in the issue of gender.

Years before this census data were even collected, action had been taken by the federal government in an effort make higher education attainable to more Latinx people. Specifically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was instrumental in boosting education numbers for Latinx people–especially women. It introduced affirmative action, a policy which would discourage racial and gender discrimination by universities and other institutions.

However, in the subsequent years of this policy, Latinas would still encounter tokenism and isolation in the academic environment. Being a part of a doubly marginalized minority group would often weaken their merit in comparison to their non-minority peers. In the article “Narratives from Latina Professors in Higher Education,” authors Catherine Medina and Gaye Luna illustrate this idea:

“Latina women have been found to be at the lowest levels of occupational, educational, and financial indexes, with these factors inhibiting entrance into, participation in, and completion of higher education (Vasquez 1997). Even more troubling are Latina students’ feelings of alienation and unconnectedness with the university because of lack of experiences and contacts. As the only minority student in a class or in a residence hall, a Latina student feels not only cultural shock but discomfort and isolation.”

The Issue at Present

Gender and Cultural Influences

Latina women are expected to be more acquiescent, and this makes it hard for Latinas to pursue higher education. Many many receive backlash from family, friend or significant others because they are deviating from their domestic and cultural roles. A struggle occurs when there is a conflict between cultural and family obligations mixed in with striving for academic success. There is also the pressure of improving life for themselves as well as their families.


Application Process and Language

For some Latinas, they may be the first one in their family to be applying to college. This can make the application process intimidating and stressful especially if no one in their family can help. Along with that, it may be difficult to apply if they or their family members struggle with the language.



There is pressure to be viewed as ‘privileged’ enough to receive higher education, however Latinas still have to face discrimination and have racial/ethnic stereotypes. This revolves around the low expectation of Latinas to be successful. Some Latina students may come from low-income backgrounds, so not only do they face racial/ethnic discrimination but also have to deal with socioeconomic inequality.


Access to Health Care

Studies have shown that, due to lack of adequate sex education as well as access to contraceptives, Latinas are twice as likely to become pregnant as teens. The cost of raising a child discourages and promotes challenges for mothers that continue to pursue higher education.

Interview with Naomi Carmona

This interview displays many issues that Latinas in education face today. In the beginning Naomi Carmona said that she had been interested in college based on a cousin who had already been to Michigan State University. This is a reoccurring factor for Latinas when deciding to go to college because, along with the small population of Hispanics in the Midwest, we still like to see people who look like us as our influences. Another main issue to recognize is when Naomi talked about gender roles in education; while working and going to school she was stereotyped as Latina women that should only be cleaning. As well as others prejudging that once she leaves her parent’s house she will get pregnant. This also plays a huge role for Latina women when they are deciding their major of study. There are many set-backs that Latinas in education face in the Midwest and Naomi’s story is one of many that portray these issues in education.

Proposed Solutions

According to an article from the Center for American Progress, the level of educational attainment for Latinas has risen in the past few years, however it is still low compared to the number of white women. Below are proposed solutions and resources that can be used to help increase the percentage of Latinas reaching higher education by considering some of the challenges that they may face.


Educational Programs

One of the sources listed below,, is an organization that aims to help first generation Latinx students obtain their goals. The resources they offer range from standardized preparatory courses to college guidance. This organization is mostly concentrated in New York, however more of these educational programs should be implemented throughout the country. These programs would better help the students understand standardized testing questions, application questions as well as consider possible financial aid and scholarship options. These programs would be available in Spanish and English and for both the students and parents. These programs could be implanted at the early high school level to help students feel more confident and prepared as well as being informative to parents.


Adequate Contraceptive Availability and Sexual Education

Studies have shown that due to lack of adequate sex education, as well as access to contraceptives Latinas are twice as likely to become pregnant as teens. The cost of raising a child discourages and promotes challenges for mothers that continue to pursue higher education. Due to some cultural history, many Latinas receive little to no sex education, especially from their mothers. This lack of education and availability of adequate contraceptives can in turn lead to a higher chance of becoming pregnant. Sex education programs would be given in Spanish and English and would allow for both mother and daughter to participate. With this, the daughter would have the choice to think about all contraceptive options if that is what she chose, and would have easy access to it. These contraceptives would still be easily obtainable to-low income Latinas. These programs could be implemented in middle school, high school and even college.


Safe Spaces on University Campuses

Many Latina students may find it hard to identify or relate with their college campus. Along with this, some may experience a culture shock due to this difficulty. There is not only the intimidation and pressure of not being accepted by fellow peers because of education status, but also for social status. Unfortunately, most of the acceptance is based on social status which can turn into discrimination based off socioeconomic status as well as the color of one’s skin. To have safe spaces available to all minorities would allow for students to feel more accepted and have a chance to learn, discuss and propose their own solutions to current challenges that minorities must face. These spaces would be beneficial in the Midwest region of the United States where certain minority communities are more marginalized compared to other regions.



Latinas in Higher Education

A great resource that focuses on the networking, mentorship, and professional development opportunities for Latinas in any aspect of their career in higher education. Their mission is to

“empower, enlighten and embolden women in professional endeavors with higher education”.


SACNAS, is an organization that helps Hispanic/Latino and Native American students in the obtainment of advanced degrees, careers and positions in the STEM field. Some of the resources they offer include career searching, professional development as well as networking.

Affordable College Resources

This webpage gives great resources for Latinx students for scholarship opportunities, Latinx students facing special situations, as well as a closer look to Latinx student enrollment and a list of the most affordable Latinx serving institution college programs. Other links on the webpage include further resources to help with the application process, financial aid and standardized testing.

Latino U College Access

Their mission is to “empower first generation youth to enroll and graduate from college by providing students with the knowledge and support they need to achieve their dreams”. The resources that they offer are programs for parents and students to learn about the application process, college preparation classes, financial aid information as well as scholarships.

Today’s Inspired Latina

Collection of inspirational personal testimonies from Latinas, specifically in the Midwest that have persevered through times of adversity. Many of these challenges that were faced are the challenges that many Latinas have overcome or will overcome. These stories are told in hope to motivate future generations to obtain success through education.


Camacho-Ruiz, Jacqueline. Today's Inspired Latina. Life Stories of Success in the Face of Adversity. Vol. 2. United States: Fig Factor Media, 2016. Print. 

Delgadillo, Theresa. Latina Lives in Milwaukee. Urbana ; Chicago ; Springfield: U of Illinois, 2015. Print.

Garcia Bedolla, Lisa. “Latina/o Politics and Participation.” The New Latino Studies Reader. Ed. Ramon A. Gutierrez, Ed. Tomas Almaguer. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. 535-560. Print.

Medina, Catherine, and Gaye Luna. "Narratives from Latina Professors in Higher Education." Anthropology & Education Quarterly 31.1 (2000): 47-66. ProQuest. Web. 21 Feb. 2017. 

Murdock, Riley. "A boycott, hunger strike forges Latino Studies program at MSU in 1990s." The State News. N.p., 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.

Reichard, Raquel. "What It's Really Like to be a First-Generation Latina College Student." Latinas Lifestyle, Entertainment, Beauty, Fashion, Celebrity News For Latinas. N.p., 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.