Hispanic Students and Higher Education: Meeting the needs of the future

In a report entitled Rising to the Challenge: Hispanic College Graduation Rates as a National Priority, the authors look at how Hispanic students in the United States are attending college, but that a pressing concern is the the retention rate of these students. This idea stems from the authors pointing to President Obama’s ideology regarding the U.S. needing to be the country with the most adults obtaining college degrees; because of the large number of Hispanics in the U.S., ensuring that this demographic stays in college and obtains a degree is of high importance. (Kelly, A. et al., Rising to the Challenge…, 2010, pp. v and 1.) Three issues in this report that are of significance are: 1) that more selective schools have higher graduation rates of Hispanic students than less selective schools; 2) that those colleges that are deemed to be Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) (p.2, 10) are based primarily on enrollment, and they should be looking at performance (p. 2); 3) Hispanic women tend to outperform Hispanic men in graduation rates.

According to the report, “Among schools in the ‘competitive’ category, as defined by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, the ten highest-performing schools graduate more than three times as many of their Hispanic students, on average, as the ten lowest performing schools (p. 1.)” Thus, the authors argue, that Hispanic families need better information regarding college; Hispanic students seem to be attending colleges at which they are overqualified and will thus drop out. The authors argue that this would not happen if these students attended the more selective colleges in the U.S. (pp.1-2.) For example, according to the report, Cornell University’s graduation rates are as follows: Overall- Hispanic= 88%, white= 93%; Hispanic women= 92%, Hispanic men= 84%; White women= 94%, white men= 91% (p. 33.) Thus, we can see that at a highly selective institution, Hispanic students are graduating at an extremely high rate of 88%. The authors believe that “The most consistent finding of our report is that an institutional focus on and commitment to high levels of retention and completion for all students is a crucial prerequisite to maintaining and improving the percentage of Hispanic students who complete a bachelor’s degree (p.1.)”

“Title V of the Higher Education Act recognizes colleges and universities where Hispanic students make up 25 percent or more of their full-time equivalent undergraduate enrollment at HSIs… Because the classification is enrollment-based, as the population of Hispanic students in postsecondary institutions expands, so too will the ranks of the HSIs… (p.10)” Thus, the authors feel that these colleges which have a higher percentage of Hispanic students need to not just ensure that their enrollment of Hispanic students is high, but that these students are graduating with college degrees (p.2.) Further, “Though designation of an HSI does not entitle institutions to any federal aid, only HSIs are eligible to compete for Title V grants… (p.10.)” The authors hint here that enrollment of Hispanic students is important for monetary purposes, but changing the scheme of Title V schools to performance-based measures, as the authors have noted, is a priority in ensuring the graduation of Hispanic students from college (p. 2.)

Lastly, “… in every category of selectivity, Hispanic women graduate at higher rates than Hispanic men… On average, Hispanic women graduate at a slightly higher rate than their white male peers in the non-competitive, less-competitive, and competitiveness categories and about 1-2 percentage points below white men in the more selective categories (p. 13.)” The implication here is that Hispanic women are graduating at an intensely high rate, and that this is in line with the over-all goal of ensuring the retention and graduation of all Hispanic students; but the problem that is implicit in this statement is how to raise up the graduation rate of Hispanic men. Thus, a policy implication is apparent.

In a country where the population of Hispanics is growing, it is important that, to compete on a global scale, our country ensures the graduation of Hispanic college students. Although there are implications regarding immigration status of these students and job security post-college is not at issue here; it is whether our country is ensuring that we rise to the challenge of global competitiveness. As R.C. Hunter and R. Bartee noted in their paper, “The Achievement Gap: Issues of Competition, Class, and Race,” “The state of the United States depends on the ingenuity of all citizens, irrespective of race, to compete in a largely international economy (Hunter, R.C. and Bartee, R., p.157.)” Thus, the importance of not only primary and secondary school completion, but college completion, is apparent for all people in the United States. Implications regarding job opportunities post-college is an important policy implication, but should be discussed as a separate issue.

Papers used:

Hunter, R.C.; Bartee, R. The Achievement Gap: Issues of Competition, Class, and Race. Education and Urban Society 2003 35 (2) , pp. 151-160.

Kelly, A.; Schneider, M.; Carey, K. Rising to the Challenge: Hispanic College Graduation rates as a National Priority. A Project of the American Enterprise Institute. March 2010.

About mja252

My name is Michael Austerlitz, a current second year Fellow at Cornell University's Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. My concentration is social policy, and more specifically, education policy. My affiliation with CLASS comes through my love of Latin American history, specifically Mexican history. I'll be blogging about issues related to Latinos and Hispanics in the United States regarding issues such as immigration and education. I love playing guitar, video games, living in NYC in hot summers, and moderately long walks on the beach.
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