Latinos continue to lag behind other minority groups in graduation rates and the number of undergraduate degrees achieved, according to a national study released this week.
The study concluded that Latinos will have to work harder than other races to increase the number of undergraduate degrees needed in order to meet President Barack Obama’s goal of leading the world in college graduates.
Excelencia in Education used three different criteria to measure where Hispanics currently rank throughout the nation and determine what steps are needed to close the inequality gap. They studied graduation rates, the number of students enrolled full time and the number of residents with undergraduate degrees.
Latinos had the lowest level of associate degrees or higher during 2011 with 21%, compared to Asians with 57%, whites with 44% and blacks with 30%.
“What we have here is a straight uphill climb,” said Anthony Carnevale, director for the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. “The economic success of America is bound tightly to the economic success of our growing Latino population.”
Excelencia compiled the data in an effort to bring more attention to Latino graduation rates in conjunction with Obama’s goal of increasing overall college graduation rates.
The nation’s attempt to revive the economy and climb out of the Great Recession will hinge on raising the level of education of today’s workforce, according to Carnevale.
Nationally, Latinos had a 14% lower college graduation rate than whites. Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa and Washington had the largest gap in graduation rates, according to the study, while Louisiana had almost no gap and Maine saw more Latinos graduate than whites, the study found.
The equity gap between Latinos and whites is significantly lower when comparing full time equivalent students. The highest gaps belong to Arkansas and Iowa.
The study found that Latinos lag behind other racial groups by 25% when comparing the number of degrees attained.
“We have to raise college attainment across the board, but in particular we need to close this gap,” said Eduardo Ochoa, assistant secretary of education for the Department of Education. “Latinos will have to earn five and a half million college degrees by 2020 for the US to reach 51% degree attainment and become the world leader.”
The Latino population in America, with an average age of 27, makes up 16% of the overall population and 22% of the K-12 population. Yet, 19% of Latinos in America have earned an associate degree or higher compared to 38% of all adults.
“We’re dealing with a population that is really ready to benefit from a college education,” said Deborah Santiago, vice president of policy and research for Excelencia. “Investment in education today at all levels will determine the returns that we receive as a nation in the near future.”
The study’s findings come at a time when college budgets are being cut nationwide.
California, home to the largest percentage of Hispanics, has cut its community college budget by $800 million since 2008 and recently made the decision to waitlist all applicants for its state university system starting in the spring of 2013.
The main challenge facing Latinos in their efforts to graduate from college is the language barrier, according to the study.
Excelencia to take their findings on the road, first to Atlanta, Georgia, in their effort to discuss issues regarding Latino’s college graduation rates.
Excelencia has joined with 65 partners in their Ensuring America’s Future in an effort to raise Latino graduation rates.
“If it’s not addressed in California then the opportunity to share with other states so they can learn what’s effective is very limited,” said Santiago.
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