How the higher education system is holding Latino workers back

 

Many Latino students who go to college attend the open-access colleges white students are fleeing

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Latinos have ‘essentially stalled’ when it comes to obtaining higher education, a new report concludes.

By

JILLIANBERMAN

REPORTER

The fastest-growing group of workers is being held back by our higher education system.

Between 1992 and 2016, the share of the population made up by Latinos grew by 9%, but the share of Latinos with at least some kind of college education grew by just 6% during that same period, according to an analysis published Wednesday by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce.

Latinos make up a smaller share of workers with good jobs — or jobs that pay a decent salary and have health insurance — that require a bachelor’s degree than they did in 1991, the report notes. What’s more, other demographic groups are seeing faster progress, which means Latinos are losing ground.

In this way, Latinos have “essentially stalled” when it comes to obtaining higher education and landing their share of jobs that come with it, said Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown Center.

And qualified Latino students who do enroll in higher education, are more likely to end up in schools where they may struggle to graduate or find a decent job. Each year, 125,000 Latino high school students earn test scores that would put them in the top half of the nation’s students. But just 26,000 enroll in one of the 500 most selective colleges in the country, according to the report.

 
 
 
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Instead, 65% of Latino students who go to college attend the open-access colleges white students are fleeing; white enrollment at these schools has dropped 18% since 2004, the report adds. Latino students “are largely consigned to the lower, crowded and underfunded two-year and four-year parts of the system,” Carnevale said. “That has real implications for their graduation and success.”

 

“There’s a general presumption in the United States almost always with respect to new groups, especially immigrant groups, that it’s okay if people are behind, so long as they’re always getting better off, so long as there’s progress,” Carnevale said. “What this report shows is that that’s not really true for Hispanics. The presumption that they’re making steady progress is way overstated.”

There are a variety of factors undermining their progress, Carnevale noted. For one, Latinos are poised to go to college in larger numbers at a time when college is expensive. Students are also increasingly relying on a combination of work and loans to pay for school.

These trends are in part a result of decreased investment from state and local governments in higher education. Contrast that with white Americans who began going to college in large numbers for the first time when the GI bill became available, helping them pay for school.

“They’ve got to make a very fast transition” from relying on decent-paying blue-collar jobs, which are shrinking, Carnevale said of Latino students. “The current state of higher education is not friendly to that. It’s very selective, high priced and offers very little support.”