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updated 4/2/2004 3:41:18 PM ET 2004-04-02T20:41:18

Scant awareness of financial aid is creating a barrier between Hispanics and college, according to a new report.


“Their expectation is that college is too expensive and out of reach for them,” said Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at the University of Southern California, which conducted the research.


The result, he said, is that potential students are stranded on a “paper frontier,” daunted by the sometimes confusing forms required to get student loans and grants.


Three of every four Hispanic young adults surveyed who weren’t in college said they would have been more likely to go if they’d known more about financial aid.


The survey was conducted for The Sallie Mae Fund, a charitable organization funded by Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest provider of student loans. Responding to the findings, fund officials said they will expand programs aimed at raising awareness about financial aid in the Hispanic community.


Among other things, the fund will host 40 of its 135 “Paying for College” workshops in Spanish this year and will launch a 20-city bus tour targeting major Latino population centers.


Historically, rates of Hispanic enrollment in higher education have lagged behind the national average, said Tom Joyce, spokesman for the fund. An estimated 10 percent of Hispanics have a college degree today compared to a national average of about 30 percent, he said.


The report was based on a telephone survey of 1,200 Hispanic parents of children ages 18-24 and a separate sample of 1,200 Hispanic adults ages 18-24. Survey respondents were drawn from seven major metropolitan areas across the nation and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


More than two-thirds of parents surveyed said they didn’t receive financial aid information while their children were in grades K-12. More than half of young adults surveyed who weren’t in college said they had not received financial aid information in K-12.


With census data showing that about 1 in 6 U.S. children is Hispanic, improving access to college is not only the right thing to do but also makes good business sense, said Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who discussed the report’s findings in a teleconference Wednesday.


Menendez recalled being accepted to Ivy League schools when he graduated from high school — and simply assuming that they were too expensive to consider.


“I made career decisions based upon a lack of information,” he said. “If my parents and I had better access to financial aid information I would have had a world of different options at my fingertips.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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