Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study: 23 Percent of Undergraduates Are Immigrants or Have an Immigrant Parent

A new analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that in 2008, about 23 percent of  the country’s 22.3 million undergraduate college students were immigrants or had at least one immigrant parent. The vast majority of those students are Asian and Latino.

About 10 percent of the college students were immigrants, and 13 percent were second generation. Their enrollment rates varied considerably between states, with the largest populations in California, New York and Texas.

Latino students made up the largest ethnic group who were second-generation college students, representing 41 percent of students in that category. In contrast, Asian students made up the largest group of immigrant students at 30 percent of that pool.

Overall, about 66 percent of all Latino college students  and 90 percent of Asian college students are immigrants or second-generation Americans, compared with 10 percent of white Americans. Latinos are more likely than Asians to be second-generation, with about 45 percent of Latino undergraduates being second-generation Americans. About 21 percent of Latino undergraduates are immigrants, compared with 55 percent of Asian undergraduates.

The immigrant Asian and Latino students were more likely to be 24 and older, while the majority of second-generation students were 23 or younger. The Asian and Latino students in the two groups were also more likely to come from low-income backgrounds than the overall rate among undergraduates.

Latino and Asian students differed significantly in their parents’ backgrounds and college choices.

Hispanic immigrant and second-generation students were much more likely to have parents who did not attend college than Asian students, with 55 and 54 percent of their parents having not attended college.

They also were much more likely to attend community colleges than all undergraduates. Of the immigrant students, 54 percent attended community college, compared with 51 percent of the second-generation students, 44 percent of all undergraduates and 40 percent of Asian second-generation students. In addition, about 12 percent of the Latino immigrant and second generation students were also enrolled in for-profit colleges, a higher rate than the U.S. student average. The Latino students were also more likely not to  be full-time students. These characteristics are important to note because these types of students (for-profit and part-time) are less likely to graduate or move on to a bachelor’s degree.

The Latino students also had other factors that made them at-risk of not completing. Those Hispanic immigrant or second -generation students under the age of 30 took fewer advanced math courses in high school, such as precalculus and calculus and also took more remedial courses in college.

I’ve blogged before about the big recent push to enroll more Latino students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs). The data show that  about 14 percent of Latino  immigrant and second-generation students had STEM-related majors, compared with 25 percent of Asian immigrant and second-generation students. Latinos were more likely to enroll in general studies, social sciences or education than the Asian students.

The researchers clarified that they don’t sort the data by the age of the immigrant students when they entered the United States or the students’ immigration statuses. They also excluded students reporting that they or their parents were from Puerto Rico.