The coronavirus has now infected more than 1.2 million people across the country, and African Americans, Hispanics and other minority populations are disproportionately being affected. “The data is clear and has been clear for decades: African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups live sicker and die younger,” says Stephen Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. “We cannot close our eyes or put up blinders to the disproportionate impact of this disease on racial and ethnic minority communities.” (https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/ )
One reason for this disproportionate impact is that in the work force, “more Latino/as work disproportionately in the country’s 10 lowest-paying jobs. These jobs, such as being a cashier or domestic worker, often entail contact with many people. They usually do not offer benefits such as paid sick leave. Workers in these fields are more likely to contract the virus than people who can work at home and, if they become ill, they are more vulnerable to losing their jobs and/or being unable to pay their rent and other bills.” (https://www.bread.org/blog/)
“Unemployment could reach 30%, and if it does there are predictions that an additional 15% of the population will fall into poverty. Inequality will grow mightily with significant impact on disadvantaged groups.” (https://www.universityworldnews.com/)
In higher education, the inequality is seen as some low-income, first-generation college students of color are struggling to meet the challenges they face. Some are helping to put food on their families’ tables. Some are newly homeless, having been asked to leave a rented room or dorm. Still more are balancing their own college classes with home schooling their elementary-school-age children or siblings and translating for English learners in their families. Others do not have access to the technology, such as laptops, they need or a quiet space to study. (https://www.americanprogress.org/)
Education can change the economic level of multiple generations. “It is the very best socioeconomic mover of lower-income people to higher socioeconomic status. Upon graduation, those grads move out of poverty and become part of the middle class in significant numbers, and contribute to society in multiple ways,” said Antonio R. Flores, HACU president. “Texas graduates will help drive the recovery of the state economy,” stated Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, Harrison Keller.
We cannot go back to the way things were. Now more than ever, there is a critical need for programs, like Catch the Next, geared to students that will keep them engaged and inspired to persist on a pathway to a postsecondary degree or certificate, a pathway to success and an opportunity to join the work force.