NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hispanic College Enrollment Rates Pass White College Enrollment Rates

May 17, 2013

For the first time, Hispanic college enrollment rates are higher than the rates for white high school graduates. The milestone is the result of a long-term trend that was boosted by the Great Recession. The growing enrollment rates are probably due to declining labor market outcomes and a new focus on the importance of college, say Richard Fry and Paul Taylor, in a new Pew Research poll.

  • In 2000, approximately 28 percent of Hispanic students dropped out of high school, compared with just 14 percent in 2011.
  • The high school dropout rate of white students also declined but by a small amount, from 7 percent in 2000 to 5 percent in 2011.
  • Hispanics are now much more likely than whites or blacks to enter college immediately.
  • Sixty-nine percent of Hispanic students who completed high school in 2012 enrolled in college the following October, compared with 67 percent of whites and 63 percent of blacks.
  • Hispanics between 18 and 24 years of age are less likely than their white counterparts to be enrolled full time.
  • Seventy-two percent of whites between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled at a 4-year college or university in 2011, compared with only 56 percent of Hispanics.
  • Despite gains in college enrollment, the unemployment rate for Hispanic 16 to 24 year olds is 1 percent higher than that of whites, at 18 percent.

One potential reason why Hispanics are attending college more than whites now is that the Great Recession has been particularly hard on young Hispanics while white youth have had an easier time getting jobs with just a high school diploma or GED.

Another reason could be the increased importance that Latino families are placing on college. A 2009 survey reported that 88 percent of Latinos ages 16 and older agreed that a college degree is necessary to get ahead in life today.

Source: Richard Fry and Paul Taylor, "Hispanic High School Graduates Pass Whites in Rate of College Enrollment," Pew Research Center, May 9, 2013.


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