The Hispanic population is the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. According to the Census Bureau's 2007 American Community Survey, Hispanics account for 45.4 million or 15.1% of the population (Business Wire, 2009). "Between 2010 and 2050 the U.S. Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple, resulting in one in three people in the U.S. being of Hispanic origin" (Business Wire, 2009).
This influx of young Hispanic population brings with it many new educational and work force challenges. Education is often seen as a catalyst for success in the work place; however, Hispanics' educational success has not kept pace with their increasing population, and they are especially struggling to complete higher education. "Young Hispanic undergraduates are half as likely as their white peers on campus to finish a bachelor's degree, a disparity at least as large as the disparity in finishing high school" (Fry, 2005, p. i). So prevalent is this problem that the Clinton and Bush Administrations both declared the group's improvement of college graduation rates a national priority (Santiago & Brown, 2004). The increasing number of Hispanics only exacerbates their educational problems/difficulties, not to mention the number increasingly impacts the workforce.
Though the increase of Hispanics in higher education is significant, with approximately 22% of college age Latinos enrolled in college, they still lag behind other racial groups in terms of college enrollment. College age whites have approximately a 40% enrollment rate, while blacks have a 30% enrollment, and Asian/Pacific Islanders have a 56% enrollment (Santiago & Brown, 2004).
The increasing Hispanic population will constitute an ever-increasing segment of the work force. The increasingly competitive global market is increasing the need for an educated/skilled work force. (Please note: for the purpose of this study, "skilled" will refer to employees who have obtained higher education.) Companies will increasingly have larger percentages of their employees whose primary language is not English. But, looking even beyond the language differences, differences of cultures in the workforce will bring many new issues and opportunities. (Jinsoo, 2007)
Cultural and social differences are hypothesized as one reason for the high attrition rate of Hispanic students in secondary and post-secondary education. Hispanics often have strong family ties and work ethic. Their perception of family roles and obligations often propels them into the work force at ages younger than their white counterparts. Ultimately, this role in the work force often prevents them from pursuing education. Many others struggle with high school and have limited adult role models to encourage their educational efforts; this struggle is only worsened in higher education (Fry, 2004).
Studying Hispanic students is significant for several reasons. If Hispanic workers are going to meet future employers' needs, they are going to have to become more educated. A recent study found that one-third of the 2.6 million jobs created in the U.S. in 2005 were filled by Hispanics (Jara, 2007). At current population rates, by 2020, there will be an estimated 10 million college-age Hispanics in the U.S.; but, even if the graduation rate of Hispanics from higher education doubles from 15 to 30%, this is still well below average. Even at this low graduation rate, Hispanics would still be adding 1.5 million skilled workers to the U.S. labor force (Jara, 2007).
Ultimately, consequences of educational shortcomings affect not just individuals but our economy and society as a whole. American businesses face great challenges in acquiring, training, and retaining employees, while increasing consumer pressure forces businesses to focus on their bottom lines. Employees' educational shortcomings cost businesses money, and the less money businesses make, the less opportunity, services, and money they can redirect back into society. …