The number of U.S. college students aged 18 to 24 surged to a record high last year thanks to a 24% increase in Hispanic enrollments, writes John Lauerman at Bloomberg.
A study released by the Pew Hispanic center shows that Hispanic students are now the largest minority in U.S. colleges. 12.2 million 18-to-24-year-olds enrolled into college – this number being bolstered up by Hispanics, as the number of young white students have declined 4 percent to 7.7 million.
The Hispanic enrollment increase has been suggested to have been spurred by a mixture of population growth and educational strides. A tighter job market following the recession that began in 2007 may also be prompting more students to pursue higher education, said Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the center who led the study.
“There may be other factors here that we can’t see. This is an inkling that young Hispanics are narrowing the educational gap compared to white students, getting exposure to college, and I think that’s a good thing” said Fry.
Hispanics are a relatively young population, and an increasing percentage has been reaching college age, said Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia in Education, a Washington-based research group.
In addition, “we’re finding that more Latino students are graduating from high school after taking a curriculum that would make them college-ready,” she said.
The downturn in the U.S. economy, which another Pew Research Center report over the summer found was disproportionately hard on Hispanic families, has been suggested to have had a great impact, writes James B. Kelleher at Reuters. Young people, who perhaps in the past would have been expected to enter the work force after high school, are now looking to community colleges for additional vocational training.
The drop among white college students ages 18 to 24 occurred as the U.S. population in that range fell from a 2008 peak of 17.8 million to 17.7 million in October 2010, Fry said.
“The reason that there’s fewer of them in college is that there’s fewer of them,” he said. “But there are other factors in the decline that we don’t know.”
Hispanics have long been one of the least educated U.S. population groups, Fry said. More research will be needed to see whether the higher enrollment numbers translate into more Hispanics with degrees, and better job prospects, he said.
“What employers like to see is sheepskins, and we don’t know if this will lead to sheepskins yet,” he said.
The report also highlighted gains in high school completion rates for Hispanics. In 2000, just 59 percent of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds had completed high school; last year, 72 percent had, writes Sabrina Tavernise at the New York Times.
Most of the growth among Hispanics has been in community colleges, the report suggests. 46 percent of all the young Hispanics in college last October were in two year colleges, with the remaining 54 percent at four-year colleges.
In comparison, 73 percent of young white college students were enrolled in four-year colleges, 78 percent of young Asians and 63 percent of young blacks.