New Study Shows Growing Latino Path to College but Challenges Remain

New Study Shows Growing Latino Path to College but Challenges Remain


This week the Pew Research Center released an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau that shows an increase in Latino college enrollment among the high school graduating class of 2012, with 69 percent enrolled that fall.  The report, by Richard Fry, senior research associate of the Pew Hispanic Center, and Paul Taylor, the center’s Executive Vice-President, reflects an upward trend. According to the information, as recently as the class of 2000, only 49% of Latino high school graduates immediately enrolled in college the following fall.

One possible reason for this growth is that Latino families are becoming more aspirational, placing importance on moving onto higher education.  According to a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey, 88% of Latinos ages 16 and older agreed that a college degree is necessary to get ahead.

The report also revealed some positive trends in terms of Latino high school dropout and graduation numbers. Citing the National Center for Education Statistics, Pew reports that  in 2011 only 14% of Hispanic 16- to 24-year-olds were high school dropouts, half the level in 2000 (28%). In October 2000, there were three Latino high school graduates for every one recent Latino dropout. By October 2012, the numbers shifted with five high school graduates for every one dropout. Overall, graduation rates are up as well, with 78% of Latinos getting a high school diploma in 2010, up from the year 2000 number of 64%.

One possible reasons for the uptick in high school completion could be the recession and resulting unemployment numbers which have hit Latinos particularly hard. According to Pew: “Since the onset of the recession at the end of 2007, unemployment among Latinos ages 16 to 24 has gone up by seven percentage points, compared with a five percentage point rise among white youths.”

However, it’s not all good news revealing much work to be done. The absolute number of Latino recent high school dropouts has risen. There are many possible reasons for this including funding cuts in schools that serve Latinos as well as the growing relationship between policing and schooling in communities of color that put many students on a “school to prison pipeline.”

Latinos continue to lag behind their white peers in terms of the type of higher education they access. “Latino college students are less likely than their white counterparts to enroll in a four-year college (56 percent versus 72 percent). Latinos are also less likely to attend a selective college. In October 2011, 78 percent  of Latino 18- to 24-year-old college students were enrolled full time compared to 85% of white students enrolled full time. Latinos are also less likely than their white counterparts to complete their undergraduate studies.”  The study states, “According to Census Bureau data, in March 2012 22 percent of white 22- to 24-year-olds had attained at least a bachelor’s degree. Young Latinos were half as likely to have finished a four-year college degree (11 percent).” One possible reason for these numbers is economic. Latino families often don’t have the resources to financially support their children attending college. Therefore, many Latino students use technical colleges and community colleges, which tend to be less expensive, as a stepping stone before attending four year and/or more selective colleges. Also, many Latino college students have to work while attending school and/or alternate between semesters of studying and working, making it much harder for them to complete their undergraduate education. Additionally, according to a 2005 report by Excelencia in Education and the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Latino students are not getting the alleged free ride that affirmative action opponents claim. Instead, Latinos receive the lowest average federal aid awards of any racial or ethnic group.


Photo Credit: Whittier College