Despite the fact that Hispanics constitute a large (and growing) proportion of the U.S. population, Texas is apparently finding that male college enrollment remains low. Not just low, but lower than Hispanic women. According to a piece by Syeda Hasan at the Daily Texan, the paper of the University of Texas:

In fall 2009, UT had 7.7 percent more Latino women enrolled than men, and 14.2 percent more Latino women than men successfully completed their degrees.

Victor Saenz, UT assistant professor and Project MALES director, said the program will conduct research on Latino male students’ experiences as they transition from high school to college and provide resources such as personalized mentoring and career advising to help students succeed.

Francisco Sanchez, assistant vice president of enrollment management at Texas A&M University in San Antonio, said many Latino male students struggle with pressures such as a lack of financial stability and family support. He said the cultural concept of machismo, or masculinity, may make them feel pressured to enter the work force and begin contributing to family finances immediately after high school.

Well yes, it’s possible that “the cultural concept of machismo… may make them feel pressured to enter the work force,” or it might be that they are actually economically required to enter the workforce to provide their families with enough money to survive. That’s because college is expensive and makes it difficult for students to earn money while enrolled.

The new program is called Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success. Is mentoring really what’s needed to promote higher education success among Hispanic males?

There’s something about this concept that seems vaguely patronizing. Outside pressures make it hard for Hispanic men to complete college, so the solution is to provide them with mentors and career advising to deal with these outside pressures? Why would that work?

In-state tuition at the University of Texas is $9,416 a year; it’s not machismo that makes something like that hard to afford. The outside pressures are economic. If Texas wants more Hispanic men to complete college, it’s going to need to make college a lot cheaper so that going to college is an economically viable choice. It’s not possible to counsel someone do deal with an endeavor that doesn’t make economic sense.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer