Recent Changes in the Entry of Hispanic and White Youth into College

  • November 01, 2005

In addition to longstanding concerns over high school completion, policy makers are increasingly focused on disparities in outcomes between Hispanic and white college students (President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, 2003; Council of Economic Advisers, 2000; RAND, 2001).

Young Hispanic undergraduates are half as likely as their white peers on campus to finish a bachelor's degree, a disparity at least as large as the disparity in finishing high school, according to "Recent Changes in the Entry of Hispanic and White Youth into College."Many factors contribute to producing this disparity. This study focuses on one: changes in college enrollment patterns.

This report shows that although Hispanics continue to increase their sheer numbers in college, they are likely falling further behind whites in the pursuit of completing the bachelor's degree. In several key states, white enrollment increases occurred exclusively at four-year colleges and universities. Hispanic enrollment gains occurred at both two-year and four-year colleges. As a result, increases in the number of Latinos pursuing postsecondary education have not produced a reduction in the four-year college enrollment gap between Latinos and whites. Relative to whites, a smaller share of Latinos are obtaining a college education at a four-year college or university, diminishing their likelihood of completing a bachelor's degree. In effect, Hispanics are chasing a target that is accelerating ahead of them.

This study considers seven states with large Latino populations--California, New York, Arizona, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Illinois--for the period between 1996 and 2001.