Hispanic Graduation Rate Lags Others’, A.C.E. Finds

By Mark Pitsch — January 23, 1991 4 min read

Washington--Hispanic Americans age 16 and older are much less likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college than the rest of the school-age population, concludes a report to be released this week by the American Council on Education.

Only 78.7 percent of 16- and 17-year-old Hispanics were enrolled in high school or college in 1988, compared with 91.6 percent of the non-Hispanic population, the study found. For 18- and 19-year-olds, 44.1 percent of Hispanics were enrolled, compared with 55.6 percent of the rest of the population; for 20- and 21-year-olds, the figures were 16.7 percent and 39.1 percent, respectively. Moreover, between 1974 and 1989, Hispanics made little progress in their high-school-graduation rates, according to the study, the “Ninth Annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education.” The rates fluctuated somewhat during those years, it found, but in 1989 were at the 1974 level of 55.9 percent.

The rate for whites during those years dropped slightly, from 82.7 percent to 82.1 percent, while the rate for blacks increased from 67.1 percent to 76.1 percent.

The trends in Hispanic participation in higher education, which were included in the study as a special report, suggest that more research is needed on the education of Hispanics, 48 percent of whom are under age 25.

Blandina C. Ramirez, who directs the ACE’s office of minorities in higher education, said at a news conference previewing the report that “public policymakers, businessmen and women, Congressmen and Senators, and college and university presidents really must look at these issues as a matter of national interest and a matter of interest to all Americans.”

For the past three years, the ACE’s annual status report on minorities has included a special section. Ms. Ramirez said the organization chose to focus this year on demographic and educational trends among Hispanics to call attention to a rapidly growing segment of the population that remains underserved, underrepresented, and misunderstood by the educational system.

“We’re really glad to see ACE is focusing its attention on Hispanics in higher education,” said Antonio Rigual, executive director of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. “For the umbrella higher-education organization to do that means others are paying attention.”

Ms. Ramirez said immigration was not the only reason for the poor educational attainment of Hispanics. Multi-generational poverty, unequal systems of school finance in heavily Hispanic areas, and teachers’ low expectations for Hispanic students are also factors, she said.

The special focus study found that in 1988, 34 percent of first-generation Mexican Americans had completed high school, while 65 percent of second-generation and 64 percent of third-generation Mexican-Americans had graduated.

For other Hispanics, 61 percent of first-generation students had completed high school, compared with 78 percent and 75 percent of second- and third-generation students, respectively.

In addition to the bleak outlook on Hispanics’ educational participation, the report notes that 26.7 percent of Hispanics are living in poverty, com pared with 11.8 percent of non-Hispanics. Among children, it says, the proportion of Hispanics living in poverty is 37.6 percent, compared with 17.3 percent for non-Hispanics.

Some Minority Gains

The overall study, written by the ACE’s Deborah J. Carter and Reginald Wilson, found that between 1986 and 1988, minority enrollment in the nation’s colleges and universities in creased by 7.2 percent, 2.9 percentage points more than the total enrollment gain in higher education.

The increases registered by various groups were: Asian Americans, 10.9 percent; Hispanics, 10 percent; African Americans, 4.4 percent; and Native Americans, 3.3 percent.

Between 1987 and 1989, the study found, the enrollment of black students at historically black colleges rose by 9.9 percent, 6.4 percentage points higher than the enrollment gain for blacks in other schools.

Despite the overall increase in college enrollment in recent years, the college-participation rate among Hispanics and African Americans has lagged, according to the report.

Among all 18- to 24-year-olds in 1986, it says, 22.2 percent of blacks and 18.2 percent of Hispanics were enrolled in college. In 1988, only 21.1 percent of blacks and 17.0 percent of Hispanics in that age group were enrolled. Hispanic men and women and African-American men registered declines, the study found, while black women showed a slight increase during those years.

Among 18- to 24-year-old whites, by contrast, 28.6 percent enrolled in 1986, while 31.3 percent enrolled in 1988. White men and women both showed percentage-point increases in college attendance.

The study also found that:

6.7 percent more blacks entered four-year schools in 1988 than in 1986, compared with a 1.3 percent rise in their enrollment in two-year schools. Native Americans and Asian Americans also increased their enrollment in four-year schools at greater rates than in two- year schools. But the growth rate for Hispanic enrollees was smaller in four-year schools (6.5 percent) than in two-year schools (12.9 percent).

About 30 percent of all Hispanics enrolled in college attend one of the 78 schools that have a Hispanic enrollment of 25 percent or more.

Minorities do not attain college degrees at rates commensurate with their percentages of all college participants. Whites received 84.5 per cent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in 1989, while African Americans and Hispanics received 5.7 percent and 2.9 percent of the degrees, respectively. Asian Americans and native Americans received 3.8 per cent and .4 percent, respectively, of all degrees conferred in 1989.

Copies of the report are available from the American Council on Edu cation, Publications Department, One Dupont Circle, Washington, .C. 20036. Ten or fewer copies are $10 each; 11 to 50 copies are $9 each; and 51 to 100 copies are $8 each.

A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 1991 edition of Education Week as Hispanic Graduation Rate Lags Others’, A.C.E. Finds