Why STEM Education is Vital for Latino Students

Business and education must work together to increase the number of Latino students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.


For Latino students it doesn’t take a futurist to predict immense opportunities and potential for jobs and entrepreneurship in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields in coming decades. We can also say it doesn’t take a social scientist to say that the future for Latinos in these fields needs to be rewritten, but I am one, and I’ll say it.

STEM and education

Essentially, we must radically transform the current educational trends for Latinos. To achieve that, there is an urgency to dismantle obstacles to education and graduation, replacing them with paths that channel and support Latino children and youth into STEM fields of study, and in completing high school and college. It is also incumbent upon us, as a society, to cultivate the potential of Latino students, children and youth for graduate programs and entrepreneurship. This overall educational vision takes dedication and strategy.

The Research

Research shows that focusing on and graduating students in STEM is critical for the U.S. to remain competitive in a global economy. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology made this point in its 2010 report: “The success of the United States in the 21 ideas and skills of its population. These have always been the Nation’s most important assets. As the world becomes increasingly technological, the value of these national assets will be determined in no small measure by the effectiveness of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the United States.”

We know that Latinos are the fastest growing and youngest population in the U.S. Data show that Latinos represented 12.6 percent of the U.S. population in 2000, or one in seven persons, and that number will become 30.2 percent by 2050, or one in every three individuals. Furthermore, Latinos will become the majority in several states, according to the Congressional Research Service-The Changing Demographic Profile of the United States.

We also know that the educational gap is real, negatively impacting the Latino community–and the U.S. as a whole. High school and college graduation rates among Latinos remain low, with 63 percent of Latinos graduating from high school, compared to 88 percent of whites and 84 percent of blacks. Only 14 percent of Latinos obtain a college degree, while 30 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks reach that level of education, according to the U.S. Census 2010.

Let’s translate that data into a statement and question: A third of the U.S. population–shouldn’t this large segment of the population be highly educated? I submit that we can’t settle for less. Federal efforts, such as TRIO and the Minority Engineering Programs (MEP) provide funding to educational institutions for efforts that support low-income and minority groups, including Latino students. Other opportunities, such as those offered by corporate initiatives for internships, non-profit service-oriented organizations and philanthropic foundations, are part of a web of endeavors that buttress the educational prospects and accomplishments of Latino children and youth.


Mara Perez
Mara Perez
Mara Perez, Ph.D. As Founder and Principal of Mara Perez, Fund Development and Planning Services, Mara provides fundraising and strategic planning services to non-profits. Mara has helped over seventy organizations obtain funding, design innovative work strategies, and execute growth plans. Mara holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Community service includes: 2010-present Board Member of Marin General Hospital; 2002-2012 Board Member Canal Alliance, twice Board President; 2005 Spirit of Marin Award, Business Person of the Year; Coro Leadership Community Fellow. She has published articles about immigration, social change, and fundraising. Born in Argentina, Mara resides in California.