Published Online: July 11, 2001
Published in Print: July 11, 2001, as Colleges

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Hispanics and Higher Ed.: Narrowing the gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites earning college degrees will take a broad-based commitment by educators, civic leaders, and business groups, according to a report written for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

The San Francisco-based fund, which has awarded more than 45,000 scholarships worth more than $58 million to Hispanics students nationwide since 1975, commissioned the study from the RAND Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank.

The scholarship fund's leaders set a goal in 1996 to double the proportion of Hispanics who had earned college degrees from 9 percent to 18 percent by 2006. In 1998, only 10 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 25 and 29 held bachelor's degrees, compared with 32 percent of non-Hispanic whites—the largest gap in 30 years.

Fund officials say the need is pressing. The share of Hispanics among high school dropouts is projected to double to 32 percent by 2010. Hispanics are expected to be the only ethnic group to see an increase in the number of high school dropouts between 2000 and 2010.

As part of a Hispanic Scholarship Fund conference held in Washington in May, the organization released results from the RAND report. Among the report's findings:

  • Doubling the rate of Hispanics earning college degrees would provide significant return on investment for the public. The nation could reap billions in additional income tax dollars, the authors say, as Hispanics' incomes increase because of their stronger earnings potential.
  • Retention programs for college students must be used in combination with efforts that increase the number of Hispanics who complete high school, who finish their secondary education prepared for college, and who enroll in four-year postsecondary institutions or community colleges.
  • Unless colleges and universities expand their capacity to accommodate the growth in the college-age population, the United States will see a "disproportionately negative impact on Hispanic students."
  • Two out of three Hispanic children live in a family where neither parent has a high school diploma, and many Hispanic youths grow up in poverty.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population has increased more than 50 percent since 1990. One of every five people now entering the U.S. workforce is Hispanic.

—John Gehring

Vol. 20, Issue 42, Page 16

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