Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Closing the Education Gap: A Surge in Hispanic College Enrollment

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Closing the Education Gap: A Surge in Hispanic College Enrollment

Article excerpt

A stunning 24 percent spike in Hispanic college enrollment has brought young adult Latinos closer than ever to the enrollment levels of other groups, according to a recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center. The rapid surge in enrollment growth is unprecedented - and not just in speed; it has led to a record share of Hispanics in the total number of young adults enrolled in two- or four-year colleges in the United States. It's a welcome development, given that Hispanic college enrollment has persistently lagged behind that of other groups.

The report, Hispanic College Enrollment Spikes, Narrowing Gaps with Other Groups, authored by Richard Fry, shows that the rapid, one-year surge in Hispanic enrollment surpassed growth in all other groups in the 200910 academic year, and that it contributed greatly to an overall surge in enrollment that led to an all- time high figure of 12.2 million young adults enrolled in two- or four-year colleges in 2010. Interestingly, it also comes at a time when the Hispanic poverty rate, as measured in the new Supplemental Census Measure, surpassed that of all other groups. (See "Hispanic Poverty Rate Highest In New Supplemental Census Measure," Nov. 8, 2011, by Pew Hispanic Center.)

To tabulate the reported findings, Fry used the October 2010 Current Population Survey (CPS) for recent enrollment rate data and the U.S. Census for older enrollment estimates. What emerged is a picture of rapid growth in enrollment among minorities in recent years - particularly following the 2008 recession.

Fry found that between 2009 and 2010, enrollment of 18- to-24-year-old Hispanic students increased by 349,000. This brought the number of Hispanics enrolled in college in 2010 to 1.8 million, or 15 percent of the overall enrollment of young adults in two- or fouryear colleges. It's a historic high for young Latinos both in terms of numbers and share of college students; in fact, in 2010 Latinos became the largest minority group among all college students.

Young adult Hispanics were not alone in experiencing a surge in enrollment from 2009 to 2010. Black enrollment also expanded by 88,000 for a total of 1.7 million, while 43,000 more young Asian-Americans joined the ranks of two- or four-year college enrollees, bringing their total to about 800,000. Young adult nonHispanic Whites were the only group to show a decrease, down by 320,000 to a total of 7.7 million, making them, in 2010, just 63 percent of all 18- to-24-year-olds enrolled in college. That is the lowest since 1993, when the U.S. Census Bureau first started publishing statistics for the young adult White population segment. (This trend might be due, at least in part, to a concurrent decrease in the population of White 18- to24-year-olds.)

Among other developments, Fry determined that in 2010, young Hispanics - at a total of 1.8 million - for the first time outnumbered Blacks on college campuses, despite the concurrent surge in Black enrollment. But while this is a historic first and positive development, young Hispanics continue to lag behind their Black peers in two significant measures.

First, while the total number of young Blacks enrolled in college in 2010 - at 1.7 million - fell behind that of young Hispanics, they continued to show a higher rate of enrollment within their group. Thus, while enrollment of young Black students grew by 6 percent between 2008 and 2010 - a much smaller surge than their Hispanic counterparts showed - a full 38 percent of all young Blacks were enrolled in college in 2010. Meanwhile, despite the impressive 24 percent gain, just 32 percent of all young Hispanics were enrolled in college - slightly less than three in 10.

Second, while Latinos outnumbered Blacks by 200,000 at two-year colleges in 2010, Blacks still outnumbered Hispanics at four-year colleges, albeit at a shrinking rate. In 2010, about 1.1 million young Black students were enrolled in fouryear institutions of higher learning, compared to one million Latino students. …

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