Latinos are the fastest growing population of the state’s students, but they have the lowest college graduation rates, according a new report by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Campaign for College Opportunity.
In California, Latinos lag behind all other ethnic groups in college completion, according to the report: 11 percent of Latino adults have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 39 percent of whites and 23 percent of African Americans.
“We are on track to produce a generation of young people less educated than our older population,” the report’s authors wrote.
That has serious economic consequences for the state and for the students. California receives $4.80 for each dollar it invests in putting a student through college, according to the report, because a college degree fetches a higher salary and therefore more income tax revenue for the state.
“We consider this to be an economic justice issue,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, an organization of business executives.
The irony is that Latino high school graduates are enrolling in college in record numbers compared to past generations of Latinos, said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign, during a webinar Tuesday morning to discuss the report.
There are other hopeful signs, too. Latino children, especially those born in the United States, “have high aspirations” and their parents’ support, Siqueiros said. More than 90 percent of Latino parents believe that college is very important for their children, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.
For now, however, the challenges have the upper hand.
“Latinos are less likely to enroll in a four-year university, less likely to attend a selective college, less likely to enroll (in college) full time and less likely to complete a certificate or bachelor’s degree,”
Seven out of 10 Latino high school graduates who go on to college, including those who attended top-performing high schools, enroll in community college, the report said. Still, they represent less than 40 percent of all community college students, and they’re less likely to obtain degrees or certificates. They’re also underrepresented at California State University and the University of California, and in private colleges and universities.
One huge reason for these dismal statistics is what doesn’t happen in high school. Only three in 10 Latino high school students complete the prerequisites, known as A to G courses, required for admission to Cal State and UC. Once accepted to college, most Latino students aren’t ready for college-level math and English and are placed in remedial classes; many students who require remedial coursework ultimately drop out of college.
The Campaign offers five recommendations for improving college success for Latino students, many of which have been suggested before. The report calls on the governor and Legislature to develop a statewide plan to increase college completion rates; to implement better coordination between the K-12 and higher education systems to ensure students enter college prepared for higher-level studies; to improve the college counseling and advising systems; and do a better job of helping students apply for financial aid.
The fifth recommendation calls for increasing funding for higher education, and providing financial incentives for colleges to improve graduation rates of underrepresented minorities, essentially a form of performance-based funding that has many critics in California.
The report estimates that by closing the gaps in enrollment and graduation, another 790,000 Californians could earn their bachelor’s degrees. What we’re seeing now, Siqueiros said, is “our campuses are welcoming students, but unfortunately they’re dropping off.”
Thanks for reading.
Can you help sustain our reporting?
Our team of journalists, editors, and fact-checkers do an estimated 440 hours of research every week to bring you the news on California education. That's a lot of work.