Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latino Dropout Rate Going Down, College Enrollment Going Up

Fewer Latinos are dropping out of high school, and more are heading for college.

With graduation season well underway, these are a few educational highlights mentioned in a Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends article Tuesday. The Pew article used data from 2000 and 2013 to examine national trends.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education reported the national high school graduation rate has reached an all-time high of 81 percent. High school graduation rates among Hispanics surely helped the boost after making a 60 percentage-point improvement — from 15 to 75 percent — in just the past nine years.

“The improvement is due to a variety of factors, including greater consistency in comparing graduation rates from state to state and the development of systems to identify and target at-risk students,” Fox News Latino reported May 12. “The increase in the graduation rate also has been accompanied by a decline in the number of high schools with low graduation rates – often referred to as ‘dropout factories’ – where 60 percent or less of students graduate.”

In October, I wrote about the record-low dropout rate for U.S. students — a statistic also driven by improvement among the Hispanic population. At the time, sources cited greater awareness of the dropout problem, efforts by districts, states and the federal government to keep schools accountable and new intervention methods — including one-on-one instruction — as contributing factors.

However, despite the dramatic improvements in high school completion and the fact that number of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics enrolled in college has more than tripled over the last 20 years, Latinos still lag behind other ethnic groups in college degree attainment. Sadly, this isn’t a surprise to anyone who has been monitoring the trends in Latino higher education. 

While 2.2 million Hispanics were enrolled in college in 2013, up from 728,000 in 1993 – a 201 percent increase from 728,000 in 1993 — just 15 percent of Hispanics 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree.

According to the Pew article, “This gap is due in part to the fact that Hispanics are less likely than some other groups to enroll in a four-year college, attend an academically selective college and enroll full-time.”

Hispanics are more likely to choose two-year colleges with lower tuition — which means they also have significantly less student debt than their white and black peers — and a 2014 National Journal poll reveals more than half of Hispanics who entered the workforce or the military immediately after high school said they did not enroll in college because they needed to support their family.