Analysis: 2012 Higher Education Enrollment Rate of Latino High School Graduates Surpassed That of Whites

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by Ronald Roach

 

Latino Graduate

The rate of Latino high school graduates enrolling in college reached 49 percent last year.

Among 18- to 24-year-old U.S. postsecondary students, the higher education enrollment rate of Latino high school graduates surpassed that of White high school graduates in 2012 for the first time, according to a census data analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.

Using just-released U.S. Census data, the Pew Hispanic Trends Project reported that the higher education enrollment rate of 18- to 24-year-old Latino high school graduates reached 49 percent in 2012 compared to 47 percent of non-Hispanic White high school graduates. With Latinos having a higher high school dropout rate than Whites, the proportion of all Latinos from 18 to 24 in college is below that of Whites—37.5 percent among Latinos compared to 42.1 percent among Whites, according to the Pew Hispanic Trends Project analysis.

“Probably the most important finding of this new Census [data] release is that not only are more Hispanics going to college, but, among those that finish high school, a larger share of them are enrolled,” said Dr. Richard Fry, the senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Trends Project.

The Hispanic Trends Project is part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, which is a nonpartisan research organization that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the U.S. and the world.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that overall college enrollment in fall 2012, including both graduate and undergraduate figures, fell by half a million (467,000) from the previous year. Enrollment, however, increased among Latinos and in the proportion of Latino high school graduates attending college, reflecting both population growth and the growing rate of college preparedness. The new Census Bureau data also revealed that Latino students reached other milestones in 2012, including recent progress in educational attainment and college attendance.

The number of Latinos enrolled in college grew by 447,000 from 2011 to 2012, the Census Bureau reported. From 2006 to 2012, the percentage of all college students who were Latino rose from 11 to 17 percent. The percentage of all college students who were African-American also increased, rising from 14 to 15 percent, while the percent of non-Hispanic White students declined from 67 to 58 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

“This increase in the number of Hispanics enrolled in college can be attributed to the combination of an increase in the adult Hispanic population and their climbing likelihood of being enrolled,” Julie Siebens, a statistician in the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch, said in a statement. The overall decline in U.S. college enrollment from 2011 to 2012 was partly driven by adult students, age 25 and older. Older student enrollment fell by 419,000, while the enrollment of younger students declined by 48,000. In addition, White student enrollment fell by 1.1 million and Black enrollment by 108,000 during the same period, according to the Census Bureau.

The recent decline comes after a period of significant U.S. higher education enrollment growth that saw an increase of 3.2 million students between 2006 and 2011. In 2012, total U.S. college enrollment reached 19.9 million students, including 5.8 million enrolled in two-year colleges, 10.3 million in four-year colleges and 3.8 million in graduate school.

Fry said the Pew analysis updates an earlier report the Hispanic Trends Project released in May. In that report, which was based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Pew Hispanic Trends Project researchers found that 69 percent of Latino high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college compared to 67 percent of Whites, a jump from 49 percent of Latinos graduating in 2000.

The most recent Pew analysis, however, is based on the population of 18- to 24-year-olds who are high school graduates while the previous analysis limited its scope to students who graduated from high school in 2012, Fry explained.

“We [at the Pew Hispanic Trends Project] had been anticipating the Census data because the spring report told us that we could expect to see strong Latino enrollment numbers among 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates,” Fry said.

He noted that, while Latino college enrollment has seen significant growth in recent years, Latinos continue to lag in bachelor’s degree attainment in comparison to other groups. In 2012, 14.5 percent of Latinos ages 25 and older had earned a bachelor’s. In contrast, 51 percent of Asians, 34.5 percent of Whites and 21.2 percent of Blacks had earned a bachelor’s degree, according to the Pew Hispanic Trends Project.

“What the Census data suggest is we are having some success in getting young Latino high school graduates onto our nation’s college campuses, but that’s not necessarily saying they are getting the real fruits by racking up credits, getting degrees, and the rewards that come with degree attainment,” said Fry.

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