As undergraduate enrollment drops, non-traditional graduate hopes to help others achieve their dreams

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 5:26 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - According to new research, during the pandemic, undergrad enrollment dropped by close to six percent, and that rate was higher in people of color.

However, Rocina Garcia was determined to finish her degree.

She bought her tassel and a UA license plate on Friday, May 14, 2021. The plate is something she has always wanted on her truck. At nearly 50 years old, she is proud to cross off getting a degree. It’s a time full of many emotions.

She will be graduating with her degree in sociology and with a minor in Spanish. She works full-time, takes care of her elderly dad and is a first-generation college grad.

“It’s emotional because I never thought that I would accomplish that goal. It was something that was on my bucket list, and it was at the very top, but internally I thought I was never going to be able to accomplish this because college is so expensive,” Garcia said.

Working at the UA she was able to finally afford her degree and is graduating the same year her daughter is from Northern Arizona University, right at the tail end of the pandemic. The National Student Clearing House Research Center found undergraduate enrollment this spring dropped by 8 percent for Latinx students compared to last year. Black student undergraduate enrollment dropped by nearly 10 percent. International undergraduate student enrollment had the largest drop by far at more than 21 percent.

Garcia hopes to help these students specifically stay in school and achieve what she able to herself.

“I think as a minority person, first-generation I think that it’s important that you be a role model to other students,” she said.

Rocina will walk the stage on May 18. She credits her kids for giving her the same push she gave them to finish school.

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