College Enrollment Increases Among Hispanic Millennials

Jose Tillan by Jose Tillan, Insight Tr3s

A Pew Hispanic Center study last year revealed that the rate of Hispanic college enrollment grew by 24% from 2009 to 2010, driving enrollment among total U.S. 18- to-24-year-olds to an all-time high of 12.2 million. According to this study, 32% of Latinos in this age group were enrolled in college – up from 27% in 2009 and 13% in 1972. Much of this growth was at community colleges. Among young Hispanics in college in 2010, 46% were at two-year colleges and 54% were at four-year colleges.The study cites a few reasons for the increase. First, the population of young Hispanics has grown at a faster rate than other demographics. Second, more young Latinos are finishing high school and eligible for college. In 2010, 73% graduated from high school – up from 70% in 2009. The share of young Hispanic high school grads attending college also rose, from 39% in 2009 to 44% in 2010. Third, the pace of enrollment has risen since the recession first began in 2007. Historically high unemployment levels are leading more young Latinos to higher education.

The U.S.-born segment is the source of higher educational attainment among Hispanics, and their high school dropout rate is just 10%. However, dropout rates have been high and college completion has been low among Hispanics overall, relative to other ethnic groups. This trend was driven by foreign-born Latinos, of whom a third did not finish high school. The main reasons cited by Hispanics who cut their educations short are financial pressure to support a family (either here or in their native country), poor English skills, a dislike of school, and a feeling that additional schooling isn’t necessary for the careers they want to pursue. With U.S.-born Hispanics representing an increasingly large share of the college-age population, we expect the dropout rate to decrease.

Based on an analysis of Simmons data, here are a few additional facts about Hispanic Millennials and secondary/post-secondary education:

  • Mexican-born 18- to-29-year-olds over-index in having a high school diploma or less. 22% of Hispanics 18 to 29 are Mexican immigrants. Mexican immigrants also represent 25% of those whose highest level of education is a high school diploma and 31% of those who did not graduate high school.
  • U.S.-born Hispanics ages 18-24 are as likely as non-Hispanics to be currently enrolled in college full-time. 29% of the native-born Latinos are full-time college students; 30% of non-Hispanics are. In contrast, just 21% of foreign-born 18-24 are.
  • Hispanics 18-29 with at least some college are more optimistic than those with less education. 60% of the “some college” group consider themselves optimists, compared with 44% of Hispanics 18-29 with a high school diploma or less.
  • Those with at least some college are more likely to be risk-takers. 54% of Hispanics 18-29 with some college say they enjoy taking risks, vs. 45% of high school grads and 50% of those with less than high school.
  • Young Hispanics with some college have higher career ambitions. 59% of Latinos 18-29 with at least some college say they want to get to the very top in their careers, compared with 45% of high school grads and 40% of those with less than high school.

With U.S.-born Hispanics representing a growing share of the 18-24 demographic, it’s likely that college enrollment and graduation rates will rise. That, in turn, will lead to greater career accomplishments and financial stability in the years to come.

Source: Pew Hispanic Center, “Hispanic College Enrollment Spikes, Narrowing Gaps with Other Groups,” August 2011; Pew Hispanic Center, “Between Two Worlds: How Young Latinos Come of Age in America,” December 2009; Experian Simmons, Winter 2012 NCHS Adult Survey 12-month

Jose Tillan is General Manager for Tr3s: MTV, Música y Más.

For more research and insights from Tr3s, visit http://inside.tr3s.com/blog.php.

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