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Latino college completion rates lagging

It’s no secret that the growing Latino population in America will have large implications for the U.S. educational landscape over the next generation. By 2020, Latinos are projected to account for 25 percent of the nation’s population aged 18-29.

Government officials, policymakers and teachers alike face the challenge of improving the services and support provided to Latino students, particularly when it comes to increasing college completion rates.

As of 2011, 21 percent of Latinos had an associate degree or higher, compared to 57 percent of Asians, 44 percent of whites and 30 percent of blacks.

“It is pretty clear in the data that our ability to educate Latino students and prepare them for [college] is a failed enterprise,” said Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, on a conference call Thursday about a new report on Latino college completion rates.

The report — by Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit focused on how America can better serve Latino students — includes a state-by-state fact sheet and highlights successes in improving Latino college graduation rates.

    Colorado By the Numbers

  • Colorado had the 8th largest Latino population in the United States
  • 28 percent of the K-12 population was Latino
  • The median age of Latinos was 26, compared to 38 for non-Hispanic whites
  • 18 percent of Latino adults aged 25 to 64 had earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 46 percent of all adults

California is of particular importance: It has the largest Latino population in the country – 38 percent of the state’s residents self-identify as Latino – and one of every two K-12 students is Latino. Only New Mexico, with 60 percent, has a higher percentage.

In California, 16 percent of Latino adults hold at least an associate degree, compared to 39 percent of all adults. The college graduation rate for Latinos in California is 35 percent, compared to 47 percent for their white peers.

“If California is the bellwether of other states, we’re really going to be challenged to get the kind of educational attainment that we need to be successful,” says Deborah Santiago, co-founder of Excelencia in Education and an author of the study.

The success Santiago of which speaks is reaching the goal set by President Barack Obama: to have 60 percent of young people – those aged 25 to 34 – across the nation with some postsecondary credential by 2020. To achieve that, the report says 5.5 million Latino students would need to earn college degrees in the next eight years.

“Almost the entirety of the population growth that we’ll look at over the next two decades will consist of students and individuals that we have not been particularly successful at serving,” says Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. “And if we don’t serve them well, then the country will have no hope of reaching the goals for an educated workforce.”

How Colorado fared on the national report

The Hechinger Report is a nonprofit news organization that is focused on producing in-depth education journalism. It is an independently funded unit of Teachers College, Columbia University.

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