[lg policy] Barriers Found to College Degrees for Hispanics

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 18 19:26:34 UTC 2010

March 17, 2010
Barriers Found to College Degrees for Hispanics

The percentage of Hispanic students who graduate from college in six
years or less continues to lag behind that of white students,
according to a new study of graduation figures at more than 600
colleges. In the study, the American Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit
research organization, examined graduation rates for students who
entered college in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and found that 51 percent of
those identified as Hispanic earned bachelor’s degrees in six years or
less, compared with 59 percent of white students. The researchers also
found that Hispanic students trailed their white peers no matter how
selective the colleges’ admissions processes.

For example, at what the researchers considered the nation’s most
competitive colleges — as a yardstick, they aggregated institutions
using the same six categories as a popular guidebook, Barron’s
Profiles of American Colleges — the institute calculated that nearly
83 percent of Hispanic students graduated, compared with 89 percent of
white students. Among colleges identified as “less competitive,” the
graduation rate for Hispanic students was 33.5 percent, compared with
40.5 percent for whites. In some ways, the report, sponsored by the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, echoed a study prepared seven years
ago by the Pew Hispanic Center. Using census data, it described how
only 16 percent of Latino high school graduates earned a bachelor’s
degree by age 29, compared with 37 percent of non-Hispanic whites and
21 percent of African-Americans.

Like their counterparts at Pew, the American Enterprise Institute
scholars found barriers of language and culture as impeding students
from Hispanic backgrounds. The institute’s researchers specifically
noted that such students’ “familial and social ties to home are
particularly strong,” and that university administrators sometimes
described white students as “better prepared academically and
financially for college.” But in a statement, Andrew P. Kelly, one of
the lead authors, said, “This data shows quite clearly that colleges
and universities cannot place all of the blame on students for failing
to graduate.” (The researchers note one caveat: the federal data does
not account for students who change colleges and then graduate.)

The authors cast their research as a cautionary tale for President
Obama, who, they note, “has called for the United States to reclaim
its position as the nation with the highest concentration of adults
with post-secondary degrees in the world.” “Given the changing
demographics of the United States,” the researchers write, “this
target cannot be achieved without increasing the rate at which
Hispanic students obtain a college degree.” (In employing the
designation “Hispanic,” the researchers note they are following the
lead of both the National Center for Education Statistics and the
Census Bureau, from which they drew their raw data. The center defines
Hispanic as people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American,
South American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of

The study recommended that colleges adopt an “institution-wide
commitment to insuring that all their students graduate,” that college
counselors and others disseminate “information about schools that have
a successful track record with Hispanic students” and that the
government tie aid to colleges “more closely to how well schools serve
their students, not simply how many students they enroll.”


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