Equity & Diversity

Pew Foundation Study Finds Higher Ed. Gap for Latinos

By Sean Cavanagh — September 18, 2002 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Latino high school graduates are just as likely to be enrolled in college as students from other ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic whites, but they lag behind their peers in pursuing four-year degrees, a study released this month has found.

Read the report, “Latinos in Higher Education: Many Enroll, Too Few Graduate,” from the Pew Hispanic Foundation. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The report by the Pew Hispanic Foundation, “Latinos in Higher Education: Many Enroll, Too Few Graduate,” suggests that many Hispanic students cope with significant financial burdens and family obligations while in college, which makes the life of the full-time undergraduate a difficult one.

Latinos are instead more likely to seek out two-year colleges, or go to school part time, according to the author of the report, which relied on an analysis of U.S. Census data.

“There is the perception that community colleges are more affordable, and that they have more vocational offerings,” Richard Fry, a senior research associate for the foundation, a Washington research organization that focuses on Hispanic issues, said in explaining the results. Latino students and families, he said, “may not have an appreciation that part- time studies are not as conducive to completing college.”

Among the overall adult U.S. population, regardless of age, 10 percent of Latino high school graduates are currently in some form of college, the report says. That is a higher percentage than for whites, at 6.7 percent, and any other ethnic or racial group except Asians and Pacific Islanders, at 11.3 percent, the study found.

But a look at enrollment at four-year colleges and universities—and at a slice of the population confined to the typical college years—yields a different picture. Roughly 53 percent of Latinos between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled, compared with 68 percent of whites and 66 percent of blacks, the study shows.

Enrollment for Latinos also varies greatly by family history. About 42 percent of Latino 18- to 24-year-olds who were born in the United States are attending some form of higher education, including community colleges, compared with 46 percent of whites. But only 26 percent of first- generation Latinos in that age group were in college, the data cited in the report show.

A Juggling Act

Mr. Fry said he was heartened by the performance of second-generation Hispanics.

“It’s surprising how small that gap [between Latino and white students] is,” he said. “It’s very encouraging.”

Family immigration patterns traditionally play a crucial part in Latinos’ academic success, Mr. Fry noted. National high school dropout rates for 16- to 24-year-old Hispanic students born outside the United States topped 44 percent, according to a 2000 report by the U.S. Department of Education. But that rate fell to about 16 percent for second-generation Hispanics.

Those estimates relied on a “status” dropout rate, which studies all individuals within an age group who are not currently enrolled in high school, and have not graduated or received an equivalency diploma.

Latinos were also much more likely than college-age students from other backgrounds to choose two-year and part-time college routes, the Pew study found. Roughly 40 percent of Latinos between the ages of 18 and 24 attend two-year institutions, compared with 25 percent of both whites and blacks from that age group. And only 75 percent of Latino students of that age range were enrolled in college full time, compared with 85 percent of whites.

By contrast, a slightly higher percentage of Latino high school graduates over the age of 24 were enrolled in college, compared with the white population.

No Surprise

The findings do not surprise Gabriela D. Lewis, the director of policy and legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens, a national political and economic advocacy organization in Washington.

“Many Latinos start [school] when they’re older,” Ms. Lewis said. “They go down the community college pathway. A lot of them go to night school, and they’re working while they’re in school.”

A part-time college instructor, Ms. Lewis remembered how her students juggled work, family, and academic obligations when she was teaching at a community college in San Diego in the 1990s. Leading a class with an overwhelmingly Latino population, the instructor sometimes modified her homework assignments. And she let students bring their children to class, to accommodate lives more complicated than those of more typical, 18-year-old freshmen.

“You could tell the difference in the amount of time they had to devote to their homework,” she recalled of her Latino students. “They were working two jobs. ... A little bit of flexibility could go a long way.”

School systems and colleges could encourage Latinos to seek four-year degrees by counseling parents about the benefits of going to school full time, Ms. Lewis said.

That approach was echoed by Felix Galaviz, the executive director of the Puente Project, an Oakland, Calif., organization devoted to enhancing the academic preparation for college of minority and underrepresented students. Puente encourages high schools and colleges to form partnerships with business and community organizations and to seek out mentors, all of whom can help students by touting the benefits of college degrees and telling them about future careers.

“They can learn from people about real jobs and real experiences, how they can become successful personally and professionally,” Mr. Galaviz said. High schools that relied solely on principals, counselors, and other staff members to explain the benefits of either a two- or four-year education, he said, were not serving their students as well as they might.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion 70 Years After 'Brown,' Schools Are Still Separate and Unequal
The legal strategy to prioritize school integration has had some unforeseen consequences in the decades since.
4 min read
A hand holds a scale weighing integration against resource allocation in observation of the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education case.
Noelle Rx for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How a DEI Rebrand Is Playing Out in K-12 Schools
School districts continue to advance DEI initiatives, though the focus is more on general inclusion and belonging for all.
9 min read
Ahenewa El-Amin speaks with students during her AP African American Studies class at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., on March 19, 2024.
Ahenewa El-Amin speaks with students during her AP African American Studies class at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., on March 19, 2024. State leaders in Kentucky are pushing the message of making sure all students feel they belong in school including by offering ethnic studies courses.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion 70 Years of Abandonment: The Failed Promise of 'Brown v. Board'
If the nation is going to refuse integration, Black people must demand we revisit the separate but equal doctrine, writes Bettina L. Love.
4 min read
A Black student is isolated from their classmates by an aisle in the classroom.
Xia Gordon for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion 'Brown v. Board of Education' at 70: A Dream Dissolved
This anniversary should remind us that progress is not inevitable. We stand now at a critical juncture.
R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy
4 min read
A young Black woman's image dissolves in the smoke.
iStock/Getty Images