College & Workforce Readiness

New Report Shows Minorities Still Lag in College Attainment

By Caralee J. Adams — October 20, 2010 2 min read
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Getting a college degree is still just a dream for many young minorities in the United States. New numbers in a report released today by the American Council on Education show no appreciable progress in postsecondary attainment among young Hispanics and African-Americans compared with their older peers in the past two years. However, women and Asian-Americans are moving ahead of their older counterparts.

The United States is no longer gaining ground in educational attainment from one generation to the next, according to Minorities in Higher Education 2010;Twenty-Fourth Status Report , which uses data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

As of 2008, 38 percent of Americans age 25-34 overall earned at least an associate degree compared with 39 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds and 37 percent of those aged 45-57. About 26 percent of African-Americans age 25-37 obtained a two-year degree, compared with 28 percent of those 35-44. For Hispanics, 18 percent of 25- to 34-year olds have an associate degree compared with 20 percent of those 35-44.

What’s the high school picture? Overall, the completion rate has been pretty steady over the past two decades around 81-83 percent. However gaps remain among minorities. As of 2008, Asian-Americans had a 91 percent completion rate and whites 88 percent, followed by African-Americans at 78 percent, American Indians at 71 percent, and Hispanics at 70 percent, the report reveals.

When it comes to college, each generation of younger women in the United States is continuing to reach higher levels of postsecondary attainment, while the completion levels of younger men are falling. In 2007, women earned approximately 62 percent of all associate degrees and 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees. Among minorities, women earned 65 percent of associate degrees and 61 percent of bachelor’s degrees.

Hispanics continue to have the lowest educational attainment levels among American minority groups, and the gap between young Hispanic men and women is growing wider. Why are Hispanics lagging? Lack of English fluency, interrupted schooling prior to immigration, and immigrating at an older age were among some of the barriers cited in the report. The Obama administration put the spotlight on the issue of Hispanic education this week.

The report notes that colleges and universities became more diverse during the past decade, with the minority share of the student body rising from 25 percent to 30 percent, with enrollment more concentrated in two-year colleges compared with four-year institutions. Enrollment rates for traditional college-aged whites increased from 31 percent in 1988 to 45 percent in 2008, while rates for young African-Americans rose from 22 percent to 34 percent, and Hispanics had the smallest improvement, from 17 percent to 28 percent.

In the past decade, total undergraduate degrees awarded increased 39 percent, and minorities led the growth in associate degrees. Although minority enrollment improved, still 66 percent of undergraduate degrees were awarded to white students in 2007.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.