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by HOLLY HEINRICH

In Texas, which has the country’s second-largest Latino population, experts say that closing the gap in college graduation rates between Latinos and Anglos will be critical to ensuring that the state has an educated workforce in the next 20 years.

A report released today by Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit that promotes policies aimed at improving Latino achievement in higher education, shows that approximately 17 percent of Latino adults in Texas have an associate degree or higher, compared with 34 percent of all Texas adults. The report notes that the graduation rate for Latino college students in Texas is about 10 percentage points lower than that of white students.

The Obama administration, hoping that the U.S. will regain the world’s top ranking in college degree attainment, has set a goal of having 51 percent of Americans hold a college degree by 2020. If that rate is to be reached, approximately 5.5 million Latinos will need to earn degrees in the next eight years, according to Excelencia in Education’s report.

“It will be impossible for the U.S. to meet its future societal and workforce goals if Latino educational attainment is not substantially improved,” Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, said in a conference call hosted by Excelencia. “It’s impossible [to reach the president’s 2020 goal] only by educating Anglos and other minority populations.”

Texas’ youthful Latino population, which accounts for 38 percent of all Texans, is only projected to grow. The median age for Latino Texans is 27, compared with 35 for non-Hispanic whites.

“In California and Texas, the Latino youth represent 50 percent of the K-12 population,” said Dr. Eduardo Ochoa, the assistant secretary for post-secondary Education in the U.S. Department of Education. “Clearly, education is a very important issue for Latino families.”

The trends are similar across the country. Nationwide, Latinos make up about 16 percent of the general population, and 22 percent of the K-12 population. By 2020, they are projected to represent about 20 percent of the U.S. population ages 16-84. In 2011, only 21 percent of Latinos nationwide held an associate degree or higher, compared with 44 percent of whites, 57 percent of Asians and 30 percent of blacks. Thus, officials argue, increasing the rate of Latinos with college degrees will be key to increasing overall college degree attainment in the U.S.

According to the report released today, some Texas universities may already be engaging in promising practices. Dual-enrollment programs like the one offered by the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, for example, may provide solutions for increasing Latino enrollment, retention and graduation rates.

The program allows South Texas high school students to receive simultaneous credit for high school and college-level classes, at a cost of only $5 per course to the student. The courses are taught at the student’s high school campus, often by the high school’s teachers. Excelencia found that the one-year retention rate for former dual-enrollment students at UTB was 73 percent, compared with a 59 percent retention rate for students who did not participate in the dual-enrollment program.

Excelencia in Education’s report also commended the University of Texas at El Paso’s Model Institutions for Excellence program, which aims to increase the number of minority students who receive degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering. In 2004-05, 374 out of 440 such degrees were awarded to Latino students at UTEP.

According to Jones, the most substantial national population growth that is expected between now and 2025 will be driven by non-Anglo young people, the vast majority of whom will be Latino.

He added, “If Latinos aren’t part of the success story, then the U.S. itself does not have a success story.”

HOLLY HEINRICH reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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3 thoughts on “Report: Not enough Latinos graduating college

  1. Can any educators out there please answer this question: Exactly how does the dual credit program work? Are these advanced students who have already completed all their high school credits? Do their teachers have extra training?

    From my personal experience, a high school and college course of the same material are NOT equivalent. I took biology in high school, and freshman biology in college as a major – and the second class was much more demanding than the first. I don’t think that I’d have been prepared for upper level college biology courses with just that high school course.

  2. I agree with the position that having an educated Latino population is critical to the long-term success of both the State of Texas and the United States. Where this article loses me is whose job it is to make sure this happens.

    Education begins in the home. Until Latino families start placing more emphasis on education, there won’t be much “we” can do to increase graduation rates or the percentage of college educated people in the Latino community.

  3. Dual credit classes are taught by an adjunct professor (at minimum) using a curriculum approved by whatever community college the high school has a relationship with. In SMCISD that would Austin CC. Typically, although not always, the classes are taught during the school day at the high school campus with enrollment restricted to high school students who have passed whatever state-mandated test required to indicate post-high school level academic competence said community college deems worthy for their “standards” (yes, I am laughing now).

    In essence, these students are enrolled in both high school and college at the same time. In theory, the classes are as rigorous as they would be at the CC; I suspect they more or less are, with the understanding what a crap shoot you get concerning quality instruction at college in general and community colleges in particular. They usually start with a class or two their junior year of high school, with the same their senior year.

    The real ambitious can take classes during the summer while they are in high school, but it has been my experience that not many do.

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