Letter to the Editor: Latine parents misunderstand the value and work of graduate life 

A graduate student upset with her parents on the side confused
(Audrey Paransky | Daily Trojan)

“You’re going back to school for another two years?!” is what our parents said when we told them we got accepted to USC for the master of social work program. It’s safe to say our parents did not understand our desire to obtain a higher degree.

Many first-generation students decide to return to school after receiving their bachelor’s degree to get their master’s for better pay and to expand their education. While they want the best for us, many immigrant parents are not involved in their child’s school environment and don’t fully comprehend the stressors we have to endure. Those who come to the United States and immediately join the labor force tend to have lower levels of educational attainment, thus any sort of college degree is foreign to them.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, a large share of immigrants work in industries that require little formal education, “accounting for 75% of California workers with less than a high school degree.”

Graduate students juggle many different responsibilities. For example, both of us are full-time students, complete at least 16 hours of internship hours weekly, work part-time jobs and still manage our personal lives — often without our parents’ full support. Any attempt to explain our work in higher education tends to result in confusion that leaves us disheartened. The issue lies in when and how immigrant parents are involved in our lives.

Latine parents need to be involved in the graduate student’s journey from the start. Parents who are low-income, not fluent in English, undocumented, lack financial aid or loan knowledge and misunderstand college life suffer from the informational gap in graduate students’ education.

A survey of 50 college access and parent involvement programs in California found that these programs were the main source of college information for those attending, yet the colleges failed to make an effort to involve immigrant parents.

Many colleges and universities have centers for first-generation students. These centers improve the student experience and help students feel like they have a sense of belonging.

USC’s First Generation Plus Success Center provides support and resources not only to first-generation students but also undocumented, former foster youth and transfer students. Some services promote student engagement through opportunities on campus to gain deeper interactions with their peers and professors. This allows students to talk about similar experiences in social, emotional and academic situations — all of which we greatly appreciate. However, the center is intended for students and not parents.

Santa Ana College in Orange County, on the other hand, is very involved with Latine families and students. Its program, Padres Promotores, is made up of student workers who conduct outreach to parents of future and current college students. The mission is to inspire, transform and empower families to achieve higher education.

The program holds an annual event, “Camino de Amistad,” meaning “Road to Friendship.” The event helps parents learn about college life and how they can prepare their children for college by offering parent information sessions. Some topics discussed include the vernacular of college, financial aid and scholarship opportunities, transfer center information and student services programs.

Padres Promotores is doing what USC should be doing for its Latine graduate students, their families and immigrant families in general.

Expanding networking opportunities and the Trojan community with USC’s graduate programs and immigrant families can drastically change graduate students’ lives both on campus and at home. Hosting events throughout the school year to get families participating in their child’s education can provide a sense of community between all parents and students — not just parents who have the resources to do it on their own.

The University should host family orientations with professors at the beginning of the year to get families familiarized with their child’s peers and educators, and to involve them in their academic life. Building this sense of community can help parents understand the amount of pressure and workload students face in higher education.

The disconnect between the importance of being in a graduate program from a prestigious school and our parents’ lack of understanding of our sacrifices hasn’t been noticed from either side. All we want is for our parents to understand that, even though we’re working on a path that might be foreign to them, our efforts aren’t meaningless.

Tania Rodriguez & Lupe Bedolla

Master of Social Work

Class of 2024