Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Hispanic Successes

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Hispanic Successes

Article excerpt

For so long that our memory runneth not to the contrary, Hispanic Outlook and many other similaroriented publications have bemoaned the fact that such a high percent of Hispanic/Latinos don't finish high school and, ergo, don't go to college. Therefore, we have witnessed an unending procession of youngsters condemned to live dreary unfulfilled lifetimes. They are doomed to live below what their natural talents and abilities could provide because they were never developed.

That reality and a desire to change that dismal scenario motivated the founders of Hispanic Outlook to create this publication some 25 years ago. Since then and even before then, hundreds of thousands of well-meaning persons took on the challenge and worked in a variety of ways to encourage more Hispanics to finish high school and to look toward college as a real possibility. The results unfortunately remained turgid and dismal for decades.

Now, there is finally some good news. A report issued by the always reliable Pew Foundation reflects what we have seen on our campuses. Pew's report proclaims in large headlines that Hispanic "High School Drop-out Rate at Record Low" and further "Hispanic High School Graduates Pass Whites in Rate of College Enrollment."

Authors Richard Fry and Paul Taylor report that while 28 percent of Hispanics did not complete high school in 2000, that completion rate has improved dramatically since then. To be precise, by 2011 that percentage had dropped precipitously to 14 percent. To reiterate 14 percent of Hispanics still failed to graduate from high school. But that is an all-time record low!

Clearly the message of the importance of graduating from high school has gotten through. Hundreds of thousands of teachers, parents and a multitude of others succeeded in their efforts to get young Hispanics off on the right foot by completing high school. Caucasians held their own as well. Starting from a much lower base, they actually saw their high school dropout rate decline during that same period: from 7 percent in 2000 to 5 percent in 2011.

A Record Seven-in-10 Go to College

Further data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals more good news: a record seven-in-10, (69 percent) of Hispanic 2012 high school graduates enrolled in collegc that same fall. A significant feat. Furthermore, it is 2 percent higher than the 67 percent rate of their Caucasian counterparts.

Those milestones arc the result of long-term Hispanic activism and persistence. Today the goal of finishing high school is well-embedded although it must also be acknowledged that some Hispanic college-going action was accelerated d uring the 2008 recession. To the point, a lack of employment opportunities motivated some students to go to college. That also influenced Caucasian enrollments. Another wrinkle is that many low-income students from both groups have also joined the military influenced by large salary incentives and the promise of the new G.I. Bill of Rights which provides funds to attend college, So for some it is a matter of delaying going to college and they are taking steps to make that reality possible.

Discrepancies Continue

Despite the narrowing of some long-standing educational attainment gaps, Hispanics continue to lag Caucasians in a number of key higher education measures.

Young Hispanic college students are less likely than their Caucasian counterparts to enroll in a four-year college (56 percent versus 72 percent), less likely to attend a selective collcge, less likely to be enrolled in collegc full time, and inevitably less likely to complete a bachelor's degree.

More explanation is called for. As suggested previously some observers believe the increase in high school completion and college enrollment by Hispanic youths has been driven, at least in part, by their declining employment opportunities in the job market. Precisely, the 2008 recession saw unemployment among Hispanics ages 16 to 24 rise by 7 percentage points, compared with a 5 percentage point rise among Caucasian youths. …

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