Differences in Hispanic Graduation Rates at Texas Community Colleges over Time

By Slate, John | Community College Enterprise, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Differences in Hispanic Graduation Rates at Texas Community Colleges over Time


Slate, John, Community College Enterprise


With projections of the decline of the Texas economic base, graduation rates and percentages of Hispanic students at Texas community colleges were examined to determine whether statistically significant increases were present from the years 2000 to 2008. In 2010, theTexas Higher Education Coordinating Board modified the major initiative Closing the Gaps, because the state was projecting a shortfall of the targets set for the year 2015. In this analysis of statewide data from Texas community colleges, the number of associate degrees obtained by Hispanic students statistically significantly increased from 2000 to 2008. Unfortunately, in our opinion, the actual percentage of associate degrees obtained by Hispanic students over this time period did not statistically significantly increase. This finding is of concern, particularly given the increase in the percent of Hispanics in Texas. Implications of our findings are discussed.

In 2009, President Obama set an ambitious educational goal for the United States. By 2020, his intent is to have the U.S. become the top ranked country in the world in college degree attainment. This past fall, Jill Biden, community college instructor and wife of the Vice-President, hosted the White House Summit on community colleges. The summit was one of several initiatives launched by the Obama administration to fulfill the goal of regaining superiority in producing college graduates in the U.S. (Cooper, 2011).

Because community colleges educate nearly half of the undergraduates in the U.S., community colleges have become more important than ever in the nation's goal to elevate the numbers of collegeeducated persons entering the workforce (Cooper, 2011). At the same time, community colleges educate higher proportions of minority, low-income, and adult learners (American Association of Community Colleges, 2011) than do four-year colleges. Saenz (2002) documented that America's 1,076 public community colleges educate over half of all minority students enrolled in higher education. As such, community colleges represent the forefront in educating students from diverse backgrounds.

Most Americans would agree with the statement that a college education is beneficial to the success of an individual, but what impact does the success have when the statement is broadened to include society as a whole? The U.S. is falling behind other industrial countries educationally and economically. Currently, the U.S. is ranked 12th among 36 industrialized nations in which it previously was number one in degree attainment (McGlynn, 2011). If the trend of stagnant or declining growth in college-level education attainment in the U.S. continues, more jobs will leave this country (Wetzel, 2010).

Access to higher education and the possibility of obtaining a postsecondary degree is often lauded as achieving the American dream and an opportunity to be shared by any citizen regardless of race, ethnicity, or income level. However, nationwide, too few Americans complete some level of postsecondary education (McGlynn, 2011). The disproportionate amount of degrees awarded to underserved populations, specifically Hispanic Americans, has the potential to derail the American dream for society in general (The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2005; Perna, 2005). According to United States Census Data, the number of Hispanic Americans more than doubled from the year 2000 to 2009 and at 48.4 million, comprise the largest ethnic minority in America (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Of this number, 62% were high school graduates, only 13% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher, and of the full-time college students in the country, only 12% were Hispanic (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).

Hispanics comprise 36% of the population in the State of Texas which, following California, is the second largest proportion of the national Hispanic population, with 18.8% of the national total (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). …

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