When GOP Presidential nominee hopeful Rick Santorum called President Barack Obama a “snob” for saying he wants every American to go to college, I felt the former Senator from Pennsylvania had not only committed social and economic treason, but also sacrilege.  

Watch Santorum’s “snob” remarks.

I belong to probably one of the most minority of minorities.  I earned a Ph.D. from Yale University.  The National Science Foundation reports that of the 48,069 doctorates awarded in 2010, Latinos earned 1,850.  While most of us prize being labeled exceptional, not me.  I want nothing more than to have department admissions overrun with applications from Hispanics.  I pray for the day these qualified candidates are accepted and, most important, finish their degrees in record numbers.

That’s not happening and not just at the doctoral level.  The number of Latinos with a bachelors degree or higher increased by 80% between 2001 and 2011 from 2.1 to 3.8 million as reported by Fox News Latino.  

Yet a closer look reveals that the number of Hispanics reporting in 2010 at minimum some college lags significantly in comparison to other groups.  Among college graduates, about Latinos 3,589,000 finished, in comparison to 43,924,000 Whites, 4,967,000 Asian-Americans, and 4,134,000 African-Americans, according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center’s tabulation of the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey.

The Rise of the Latino Super Pac

You don’t need a Ph.D. to “get” that this continuing educational underachievement hurts our families and communities.  Every degree someone earns represents a rung up the ladder of success and prepares her for the industries of the future which require more skills.  Simply put, the more education you have, the higher the chances you’ll earn more, be less likely to be unemployed, thus building wealth and creating economic and social opportunities.  What’s rarer, on average, than a Latina Ph.D. ?  An über successful college dropout such as Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, and Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.

But the Great Latino Education Underachievement is not just alarming to our community.  It represents an American crisis given that Hispanic’s continuing population growth at a time when that of other groups is slowing impacts our country’s global competitiveness.  Latinos are not only the labor force of the future.  Our social safety net, for example, Medicare and Social Security for our seniors, will largely be sustained by this growing tax base.

Which leads me back to Santorum who upon closer examination appears to be crossing into Flipflop-ville, to not say hypocrite territory.  This son of an Italian immigrant and grandson of a coal miner calls colleges “indoctrination mills” but himself --like me-- survived, along with our Catholic faith, three universities, earning a BA, an MBA, and JD!  And in 2006 when running for Senate, he supported access to higher education for all Pennsylvanians, according to the website Talking Points Memo.

Where Rick Santorum Stands on Latino Issues

The tension between faith and reason has existed since the beginning of time.  But that they can and do co-exist--that this relationship deepens belief--should not only have been resolved with St. Thomas Aquinas.  It is affirmed because of the rigorous debate, artistic expression, and intellectual challenge on religious and secular college campuses, perhaps more than at monasteries.

Real world tests deepen faith.  Earning degrees and belief aren’t mutually exclusive.  What is exclusive--as in articulating a political position that could exclude a whole group of people from achieving the American dream--shows little “reason”; it just makes no economic or social sense.  It displays little faith in the transformational power of that aspiration.  It’s a view that’s clubby.  Make that snobby.

Viviana Hurtado’s blog The Wise Latina Club has won "Best Politics Blogger" awards by LATISM and Blogs by Latinas. She is a regular columnist for Fox News Latino. You can follow her on twitter at: @vivianahurtado

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Viviana Hurtado is the founder and blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club and the host of Hispanic Business Today: American Success Stories, nationally syndicated on NBC. She is a regular columnist for Fox News Latino. You can follow her on Twitter at: @vivianahurtado

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