Graduation Study Finds Gains, Challenges for Latino Students - Higher Education

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Graduation Study Finds Gains, Challenges for Latino Students

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by Charles Dervarics

Latinos are making major strides in college completion although they continue to trail Whites, African-Americans and Asian Americans in several key areas, a new report says.

During the past decade, the number of Hispanics with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 80 percent to 3.8 million, says Excelencia in Education, based in Washington, D.C. However, only 21 percent of Latino adults have an associate degree or higher, compared to 57 percent of Asian Americans, 44 percent of Whites and 30 percent of African-Americans.

“Latino college completion is increasing, but gaps remain,” said Deborah Santiago, Excelencia’s vice president of policy and research.

In Finding Your Workforce: The Top 25 Institutions Graduating Latinos in Key Sectors, 2009-10, the report also focused on a specific school year to examine college success trends.

For example, Latinos needed to earn 240,000 degrees in 2010 to stay on course to help meet President Obama’s college completion goals, Santiago said. That year, Latinos far exceeded that goal, with 360,000 earning degrees.

However, Latino students were heavily concentrated at a small number of colleges and universities. For example, 30 percent graduated from one of the top 25 institutions producing Latino graduates. Most of these were Hispanic-serving institutions with high rates of Latino enrollment, she said.

“We need to celebrate the progress and know that more needs to be done,” Santiago said.

Hispanic educational attainment will have a significant impact on the future U.S. workforce, said Emily DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute, a non-profit that focuses on education reform and workforce development for manufacturing industries.

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In the next decade, 63 percent of new jobs will require some post-secondary education, DeRocco said. Latinos will account for 74 percent of labor force growth during that time; therefore, education and workforce development are critical issues for this population.

“Manufacturers need workers with higher skills and post-secondary credentials,” she said at a news briefing on the report. “The influx of Latinos with these credentials will be critical for America’s future economic system.”

U.S. manufacturers today have critical skill shortages despite the uneven economy. More than 80 percent report moderate to serious shortages of skilled workers, with 600,000 job vacancies open to highly educated, skilled workers. “Employers can’t find qualified persons to fill all the positions,” DeRocco said.

Looking across all of post-secondary education, Hispanics in 2010 represented 13 percent of enrolled students and 10 percent of those earning certificates and degrees. Yet, there were wide variations by type of institution. For example, Hispanics represented nearly one-fifth of all students graduating from less-than-2-year certificate programs. By comparison, they accounted for only 9 percent of associate degree recipients, 6 percent of those earning bachelor’s degrees and just 4 percent of those receiving master’s degrees.

There are strong pockets of success, however. At the associate level, Miami Dade College awarded the most degrees to Latinos in 2010. The 5,893 degrees awarded to Latinos accounted for 65 percent of all associate degrees awarded by the institution that year.

In addition, 87 percent of Latino graduates who wanted to move from Miami Dade to a four-year institution did so within a year of earning an associate degree.

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Florida International University reported the most bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded to Latinos in 2009-’10. At the bachelor’s level, the nearly 4,000 degrees earned by Latinos that year represented 63 percent of all such degrees at the institution.

Of the top 25 institutions awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinos, eight were in California and Texas and 14 were HSIs. The overwhelming majority, 23 of 25, were public colleges or universities, according to the report.

Elsewhere for 2009-’10, the study said:

n  United Education Institute-Huntington Park, Calif., graduated the most Latino students from certificate programs of less than one year;

n  Instituto de Banca y Comercio in Puerto Rico graduated the most Latino students from certificate programs of one to two years;

n  The Inter American University of Puerto Rico-School of Law awarded the most first-professional degrees; and

n  The University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras awarded the highest number of doctoral degrees.

The new report is the first in a series of six planned studies examining Latino college success. For more information, visit the web site at www.edexcelencia.org.

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