A study on Tulsa's Hispanic population released last week identified education as a critical need, with particular emphasis in the area of higher education. Tulsa Community College is stepping up to the challenge.
KOTV's Glenda Silvey says Madeleine Smith is taking English classes at Tulsa Community College, with the hope of one day getting a degree in English. Someone at her church told her about TCC and encouraged her to enroll. "It's wonderful. I like it. I learn a lot." Eduardo Alvarez studied engineering in Mexico before coming here to study. And Edith Trevino has a degree in Economics from a university in Mexico. They're among some one thousand Hispanic students attending TCC. As legal residents, they're allowed to attend college in the U.S. But thousands of Hispanics can't, because of immigration status and money. "Hispanics are underrepresented in higher education, as are other people of color."
Tony Alonzo says under law, undocumented immigrants are allowed to attend U.S. primary and secondary schools, but not college. "I get calls from high school counselors 'I've got a Hispanic Student with a 3.5 who did real well on his ACT. What can you do for him?' So it's a very frustrating situation." TCC has launched an effort for new legislation that would allow undocumented students to attend college under a change in immigration status. These students say many Hispanics want to pursue higher education and better paying jobs. They tell their peers to begin by studying English. Student Eduardo Alvarez, "I'm sure that I can do it. It's really fun. I like here. The students, the school, the teachers." Student Edith Trevino, "When you come to USA, everything changes. Your life, your feelings, your goals, everything. So you have to work hard to get that."
TCC has instituted a number of programs to attract and support minority students, resulting in a major increase in enrollment in the past five years. Smith encourages other Hispanic students to give it a try. "They will learn a lot of English here. The teachers are great. They are friendly. They know what they are doing. So come over. " Alonso says Texas enacted the law TCC is pursuing for Oklahoma, allowing undocumented students to enroll in college.