LPM Staff

Latinos and higher education

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As the United States pursues the goal of once again having the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020, increasing this number has become the focus of national and state post-secondary policy goals, according to recent information published by the National Council of State Legislators (NCSL). 

This means in order for the U.S. to have the highest percentage of college graduates, 13.4 million more adults need to earn degrees by 2020. To reach this goal, almost a quarter of these additional degrees need to be earned by Latino students. In other words, 3.3 million more Latinos need to earn a degree in the next nine years.

This will require eliminating achievement gaps and increasing completion.

It’s becoming common knowledge that Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the nation, yet according to studies, they have the lowest college graduation rates. Improving these rates has become an important issue for all states. 

As a part of this overall effort, the NCSL recently released two new briefs at its 37th annual Legislative Summit in San Antonio this past August. 

The first brief, Investing in Higher Education for Latinos: Trends in College Access and Success, offers a look at the achievement gaps in each state and highlights the areas that could be targeted to improve Latino student success. 

So, according to this brief, where does Arizona stack up?

First, because of the particularly rapid growth in the younger Latino population, the report notes that “K-12 schools are of vital importance because they are responsible in ensuring that students are prepared for post-secondary education.”

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In Arizona, Latinos make up 41.4 percent of the K-12 population. As more Latinos graduate from K-12 schools, the number of Latinos attending college has increased. The growth of the Latino population on college campuses has been much slower than at K-12 schools, however, because Latino students are not enrolling at the same rate as their white peers.

Affordability, family and work obligations, and lack of information about financial aid and college life are some of the barriers cited by Latinos to completing their education.

Of the states with large Latino populations in college, the highest graduation rates for Latinos are seen in Arizona and Florida, and the lowest are found in New Jersey, New Mexico and Texas. The largest achievement gap is seen in New York, which has a 32-percent graduation rate for Latino students, compared to almost 52 percent for white students.

Although the graduation rate for white students in Arizona (51 percent) is close to New York’s graduation rate, the gap is significantly smaller; almost 44 percent of Latino students graduate within three or six years.

But simply enrolling in college does not guarantee graduation. 

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