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Latinos Lead In Enrolling, But Lag In Completing College, Florida Students Break National Trend

Latinos Lead In Enrolling, But Lag In Completing College

Andrew Mollison

September 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 COX NEWS SERVICE. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON _ Latinos who graduate from high school are more likely than other Americans to enroll in college, but far less likely to earn a bachelor's or graduate degree, the Pew Hispanic Center reported Thursday.

"Many are enrolled in community colleges, many also only attend school part-time and others delay or prolong their college education into their mid-20s and beyond," said Richard Fry, who directed the center's analysis of data collected by the Census Bureau from 1997 to 2000.

He said that regardless of a college student's ethnic or racial background, all three paths are "associated with lower chances of attaining a bachelor's degree."

The center, housed at the University of Southern California, showed that in the average autumn, about 7 percent of adults of all ages who completed high school are enrolled in a two-year or four-year college.

But the figure is 10 percent for Latinos, Fry said. Asian-Americans, at about 11 percent, are the only group with a higher college-going rate.

(Begin inserts for Texas and Florida papers)

In Texas, those rates were 16 percent for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, 11 percent for Latinos, 9 percent for non-Hispanic blacks and 8 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

In Florida, those rates were 13 percent for non-Hispanic blacks, 8 percent for Latinos and 7 percent for non-Hispanic whites. There was insufficient data to compile a percentage for Asian-Americans.

(End inserts for Texas and Florida papers)

By the time Americans are between 25 and 29 years old, about 10 percent of each of the three largest groups that Fry studied _ high school graduates who are Latinos, non-Hispanic blacks or non-Hispanic whites _ have earned a two-year degree.

But fewer than 17 percent of the Latinos have a bachelor's degree or higher. That is far below the rates of 20 percent for non-Hispanic blacks and 36 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

"These findings seem to indicate that American higher education has done a good, but partial, job of selling itself," said Teresa Sullivan, vice president and graduate dean of the University of Texas at Austin.

Many young Latinos lean toward part-time studies at two-year colleges because of their lower fees, simpler admission procedures, remedial courses for those who attended weak high schools and class schedules that are convenient for working students, said Ricardo Fernandez, president of Lehman College. About 45 percent of the students at his four-year college in the Bronx are Latinos, and half of its new students are transfer students.

In addition, Fernandez said, many Latinos come from families that believe 18-year-olds should work and study nearby, so they can live at home.

Many Latinos also want practical courses that will lead immediately to a particular job. Fernandez said, "I try to convince them that the problem with skill courses is that skills grow obsolete fairly quickly, but a full college education prepares you to go with the flow."

Sullivan suggested several ways to raise college completion rates for Latinos:

_ Teach high school students and their families more about how to complete college and finance a college education.

_ Help community college students understand how to prepare for and carry out a transfer to a four-year college.

_ Advise part-time students on how to arrange their schedules so that they won't forget details from a basic course before taking an advanced course in the same subject.

_ Inform more undergraduates of their options for pursuing graduate or professional studies.

She suggested expanding programs such as those through which Texas A&M offers junior and senior courses at Palo Alto Community College and her university uses summers to recruit community college graduates as transfer students.

Sep. 06, 2002

Florida Students Break National Trend: Hispanics Get Degrees At Same Rate As Non-Hispanic Whites


September 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants are nearly as likely as non-Hispanic whites to enroll in college, but less than half as likely to earn bachelor's degrees, according to a report released Thursday.

However, Florida appears to break with the national trend, with Hispanic students receiving bachelor's degrees at nearly the same rate as their non-Hispanic counterparts.

''[Nationally] there are large numbers of Latinos who are enrolled in college,'' said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, which issued the report, ``but who for a variety of reasons don't reach a degree.''

For policymakers who want to increase the number of Hispanics with college degrees, those students should be the targets, Suro said.

``They're already on campus and enrolled. The problems that are keeping them from graduation are not overwhelming.''

However, the graduation rates are higher in Florida.

''We're the Casablanca of Latin America,'' said David Hall, assistant director for the Office of Institutional Research at Florida International University. ``We're ahead of the game as far as retention rates go. South Florida is leading the pack.''

At FIU, 80 percent of Hispanic enrollees graduate with a bachelor's degree -- the same percentage as non-Hispanic whites, Hall said.

Florida State University and the University of Florida also have higher retention rates for Hispanics than the national average, the study found. Of the 265 Hispanics who enrolled at FSU in 1994, 52 percent have earned a bachelor's degree, compared with 63 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Of the 667 Hispanics who enrolled at UF during the 1995-96 school year, 65 percent have earned a bachelor's degree. Overall, nearly 70 percent of students who enrolled that year have received a degree.

FIU's Hall said Florida breaks the trend because, unlike other states whose Hispanic base are primarily migrant workers, Florida has a large number of Hispanic professionals.

Thursday's report by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group, suggested several possible reasons for the national disparity:

Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be enrolled part time or at two-year schools, could be the first in their families to attend college and may have been more likely to attend underperforming high schools.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey from 1997 to 2000, the report found that about 42 percent of second-generation Hispanic high-school graduates ages 18 to 24 attended college, compared to 46 percent of whites in that age range.

Second-generation Hispanics were more likely to go to college than foreign-born Hispanics, who had a 26 percent enrollment rate, or third-generation or later Hispanics, who had a 36 percent enrollment rate.

But only about 16 percent of second-generation Hispanic high-school graduates ages 25 to 29 received a bachelor's degree, compared to about 37 percent of non-Hispanic whites in that age range, the report said.

The report ''underscores that Latinos very much want to go to college, and that we are enrolling in college,'' said Sarita Brown, president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Institute in Washington. ``It heightens the attention on the potential for success in college.''

Brown, who is Hispanic and was the first in her family to attend college, said Hispanic students are failing to graduate because they lack adequate financial aid.

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