July 28, 2016

5 facts about Latinos and education

Educational attainment among U.S. Latinos has been changing rapidly in recent years, reflecting the group’s growth in the nation’s public K-12 schools and colleges. Over the past decade, the Hispanic high school dropout rate has declined and college enrollment has increased, even as Hispanics trail other groups in earning a bachelor’s degree.

The issue of education is an important one for Hispanics. Roughly eight-in-ten (83%) cited education as very important to their vote in the 2016 election, ranking it alongside the economy, health care and terrorism as a top issue.

Yet, for many Hispanics, economic factors remain an obstacle to college enrollment. In a 2014 National Journal poll, 66% of Hispanics who got a job or entered the military directly after high school cited the need to help support their family as a reason for not enrolling in college, compared with 39% of whites.

Here are five facts about U.S. Latinos and education:

1Over the past decade, the Hispanic high school dropout rate has dropped dramatically. The rate reached a new low in 2014, dropping from 32% in 2000 to 12% in 2014 among those ages 18 to 24. This helped lower the national dropout rate from 12% to 7% over the same time period – also a new low. Even so, the Hispanic dropout rate remains higher than that of blacks (7%), whites (5%) and Asians (1%).

2Hispanics are making big inroads in college enrollment. In 2014, 35% of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in a two- or four-year college, up from 22% in 1993 – a 13-percentage-point increase. That amounted to 2.3 million Hispanic college students in 2014. By comparison, college enrollment during this time among blacks (33% in 2014) increased by 8 percentage points, and among whites (42% in 2014) the share increased 5 points. Among Asians, 64% were enrolled in college in 2014, a nearly 9-point increase over 1999 (no data are available for Asians before 1999).

3Even though more Hispanics are getting a postsecondary education than ever before, Hispanics still lag other groups in obtaining a four-year degree. As of 2014, among Hispanics ages 25 to 29, just 15% of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree or higher. By comparison, among the same age group, about 41% of whites have a bachelor’s degree or higher (as do 22% of blacks and 63% of Asians). This gap is due in part to the fact that Hispanics are less likely than some other groups to enroll in a four-year college, attend an academically selective college and enroll full-time.

4Another reason why Hispanics lag in bachelor’s degrees is that nearly half who go to college attend a public two-year school, or community college, the highest share of any race or ethnicity. By comparison, among college-goers, 30% of whites, 32% of Asians and 36% of blacks go to a community college.

5Hispanics are significantly less likely than other groups to have student debt. About 22% of young Hispanic households (those headed by someone younger than 40) have student loans. The share is nearly twice as high among young white households (42%) and young black households (40%). This is because, despite growing college enrollment, young Hispanics are not as likely to go to college as some other groups. And among those who do, Hispanics are more likely than others to attend community colleges, which generally have lower tuition than four-year schools.

Note: This post was originally published on May 26, 2015 and has been updated to reflect new data.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Education, Race and Ethnicity, School Enrollment, Educational Attainment

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Bob Loza1 year ago

    Bernadette, just ’cause your last name in Sanchez I have no reason to assume you are ‘Latino’, but nevertheless you do appear to be ignorant. I was born in Los Angeles, my grandparents on BOTH sides were born Mexican and all their families were born their or maybe in Spain as far back as we can remember.

    The assertion you make that “…Hispanics lag behind in obtaining bachelor degrees because they have to take remedial courses…etc.” is plainly based (so it seems to me) on your ignorance of whom “Hispanics” really are. You may not be aware of the fact – for whatever reason – that a lot of “non-Hispanics” also never obtain the Holy Grail of a bachelor degree. I suppose you’d call them “under-achievers” or maybe just drop-outs.

    Well, I “dropped out” of college after 3 1/2 years and went on to have my own business. My three other siblings actually got BA’s, and one of them went on to professorship at a university.

    Too bad we never took those “remedial courses”. But then, we’re from California. Maybe you just know anything about Mexicans.

  2. Anonymous1 year ago

    I read a comment from someone (not in this thread) who implied that only blonde and blue-eyed people get no hassle from ICE or most Americans, etc. Probably true. I am US born and I have blue eyes and as a child had blonde hair, yet I am 100% Mexican in heritage. My grandparents on both sides were born Mexicans, as were all their parents as far back as the 1700’s.

    There is a region in the Jalisco highlands where a lot of people look like me. And Mexico in general has a lot of diversity in ethnic and racial differences. BUT most US Americans don’t know about that.

    The big truth about Americans with Mexican heritage is that we all don’t look the same. And you would be amazed at the things I’ve heard people say about “mexicans” and “niggers” in my presence just ’cause they assumed I was a “white guy”. Uh-mazing.

  3. Faylinn Byrne1 year ago

    I am half Hispanic and so I love seeing that community rise academically and start going to college. I think that it is perfectly fine that they are attending community colleges to avoid debt and I actually think that is very smart. However, the research here also shows that Hispanics are still least likely than other groups to go for their higher education, but do you know what cultural factors might be influencing that? ucclermont.edu

    1. latino heat1 year ago

      Half-hispanic!? all hispanics/latinos are mixed-race, some even have more than 3 genetic backgrounds. for example in my case I was born and raised in the ghettoes of latin america and I have white, native american black and arabic ancestry somehow. being hispanic is all about culture not race.

  4. Elias A. Padilla2 years ago

    I am president of the Hispanic Achievements Foundation, which is dedicated to serving the needs of Hispanic youths throughout the United States. Your online information about the “5 facts about Latinos and education,” will certainly help guide us in our endeavor.

    Thank you.

    Elias A. Padilla

  5. Leigh Cherry2 years ago

    A very informative article. Thank you! A possible explanation to points #2-3. Hispanics are enrolling at higher rates than ever. Let’s break down what we mean by “Hispanics,” though. From a statistical standpoint, this means Hispanic U.S. citizens, those with students visas planning on staying within the U.S, and International Hispanic students that only plan to be here for perhaps a short time. I know of programs that work in conjunction with U.S. Embassies that advise students that would like to come to the U.S. to study for a time, some for a full 4 years, others for less. It all depends on scholarships, sponsorships, etc. In other words, the influx in Hispanic students can be explained by Hispanic students in general enrolling in college, whether citizens or not; and the lag in graduation could, in part, be because many of those students return to their countries of origin prior to graduation.

  6. Bernadette Sanchez2 years ago

    One major reason Hispanics lag behind in obtaining bachelor degrees is because they have to take remedial courses in community colleges. They are lacking reading and writing skills and their college entrance exams sends them to community college to obtain the necessary help in order to take core classes at the university level.
    High schools do not prepare them for college work however it all begins at the elementary level. Another important factor is teachers’ attitude toward Hispanic students. There is still lots of bigotry and intolerance, as well as low expectations.

  7. Cesar2 years ago

    less student debt – so who is smarter? give more money to these folk that rig the exchange system, rig the mortgaging system – worked construction for some time (cause we like to sweat and the Bible demands it) – over the years I realized that a $500,000 home only cost 50,000 in material (get some cousins over to help build and vice-versa (returning favor) and bingo – done deal – one dream accomplished, so how does a $50,000 (in home supplies, sticks [2×4’s], sheetrock {which is very cheap, still}, etc. turn into freaking half a million noose around the neck? [not to include the interests, prob another $400K, and the folk that writes the laws for ‘building guidelines, etc?) don’t need no freaking degree to learn that… we just need togetherness and collaboration, but technology is separating us more and more, little cousins don’t talk to nobody, tied up with technology – OK, see where this is heading (complete control – ball and chain type (in a digital world)… $6 billion in fines – we all know it’s like a drop in the bucket… 2 hours of profit on any give business day – but that’s none of my business…

  8. Guadalupe Garcia2 years ago

    The number of students who drop-out thinking they neesd to contribute to their family’s support is still to great. We parents need to stop preaching education necessary to advancement and allow this mentality to go on. We had five kids. All of them finidhed their university degrees. One went on to get her Masters. They did not have to worry about “the family” They financed their education through loans and working after school.

    If we parents believe in education, and we do, we have to teach our kids to be independent, which means letting go of the foolish Idea that they need to help their family. We brought them into this world to be nourished and prosper, not to provide for us. We have to be independent from them.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Totally Agree with this.

  9. Fernando Ramirez2 years ago

    The major road block to non English speaking new arrivals is the lack of receiving the first years of elementary schooling in the US schools. Adults or students who enter school in the 6th to 12 grade struggle with English because they missed the basic Kindergarten to 5th grade language tools. I teach basic English and Citizenship to new arrivals and adults. I have changed the method of teaching to include this basic material and have met with great success. The students have an easier transition to the more advanced English.

    1. Victoria Palmas2 years ago

      Bilingual Education needs to be reimplemented into the school system. NCLB was the worst legislation for new-arrivals and native born American children who grow up with Spanish as their first language. There is no official language in the United States, yet certain mediums of the media cast a negative shadow upon our young students and want to force them to be English-only. Plus, research has shown that children who grow up fully bilingual (reading AND writing), earn more than their monolingual counterparts. This English Language Development situation is not working (not in California at least). The rates of “success” remain constant at around 60%, whereas children who start their elementary school in a bilingual dual language setting fair BETTER in English than native English speakers in regards to academic achievement.

  10. Elizabeth Harris2 years ago

    I always thought that it is hard for blacks and Asians to study among white people. My good friend from China was uncomfortable go to the university because of this and of the complexity of the language (the hardest thing was it to write some essays or other papers). She had to use some online writing sites and proofreading services like Essay Penguins, but didn`t continue her study after obtaining bachelor precisely because of these reasons.

  11. Ellie Galvez-Hard2 years ago

    As an educator of teachers, I would add to this list that many Latinos are tracked to NOT go to four year colleges. They usually lack the A–G requirements to be eligible to attend four year universities. This is an unfair practice that must be fixed at the K-12 level.

    1. Frank2 years ago

      I agree with your statement. If you through the students records, there is a big disparity between Latinos and other non-Latino groups with the exception of African Americans. Until Educators understand that all students can excel if motivated and guided to continue their education after high school, you will then see a definite change. Although we don’t like to say but we should, our educational systems still look away from racist attitudes.

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      What’s the A-G requirement?