By Harrison Howe
'Amazing Level of Growth'
According to the Houston Chronicle in April 2009, Hispanics were considered the 'least likely to pursue higher education' in Texas than any other ethnic group. But this might not be true just two years later. At least, it's not true according to national statistics: a study by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that Hispanic enrollment in college jumped 24% for students aged 18-24 between 2009 and 2010. This makes Hispanics the largest minority group currently attending colleges in the United States.
Is this jump in Hispanic enrollment due to the recession, which began in 2007? Or to educational advancements made in the Hispanic population? It's likely both of these factors are contributing to this record-setting enrollment increase. For instance, the recession has led to more people pursuing a college degree. And according to Census data released in June 2011, more Hispanic adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are finishing high school (59% in 2000, compared to 72% in 2010).
The majority of Hispanics are enrolling in community colleges. Between 2000 and 2008, Hispanic enrollment at 2-year colleges rose a whopping 85%! Kurt Bauman, the chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's Education and Social Stratification Branch, told the Huffington Post in June: 'It's an amazing level of growth.'
'We Don't Know if This Will Lead to Sheepskins'
Will higher enrollment lead to a greater number of Hispanics holding a college degree?
Not necessarily. One concern among experts is that a large number of Hispanics are attending community colleges, which have lower completion rates. According to a July 2010 article in USA Today, only 13% of Hispanics held a college degree as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Financial hardship and lack of support once enrolled in college are two reasons cited for Hispanics not attaining a degree.
In the Pew Hispanic Center study, senior research associate Richard Fry noted: 'What employers like to see is sheepskins, and we don't know if this will lead to sheepskins yet.' And education advocate Richard Ramirez noted that while the numbers are encouraging, Hispanics still have a long way to go as far as higher education. He pointed to the fact that only 12% of all students at 4-year colleges or universities - which have higher completion rates than 2-year colleges - are Hispanic.
One reason for the increase in Hispanic college students can be traced to the increase in community college enrollment among that ethnic group; read more about how the recession has led to a surge in attendance at 2-year colleges.