Report: Degrees for young blacks, Hispanics flat-lining

Minority students have made gains in recent years, but African-American and Hispanic enrollment has stagnated.
Minority students have made gains in recent years, but African-American and Hispanic enrollment has stagnated.

The number of college degrees earned by Hispanics and blacks in their 20s and 30s has stagnated over the past decade, according to a report on minorities in higher education that claims today’s college-aged students are no better educated than Baby Boomers.

The report, “Minorities in Higher Education 2010,” was released Oct. 20 by the American Council on Education (ACE) and cites statistics gathered across higher education starting in the late-1990s. The report highlights a persistent “racial/ethnic gap” in colleges and universities despite minority gains.

The minority college enrollment stagnation is “a troubling development that will impact the ability of the country to compete in a global marketplace,” the report says.

Enrollment rates for blacks, for example, jumped from 22 percent in 1998 to 34 percent in 2008. Hispanic college enrollment had the smallest gains over that same period, rising from 17 percent to 28 percent, according to the report, which used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

American Indians, according to the report, had the lowest enrollment rates at 24 percent. Asian Americans had the top enrollment rates, with 63 percent.

Mikyung Ryu, assistant director of ACE’s Center for Policy Analysis and author of the report, said educational barriers for the 47 million Hispanics living in America have “received little attention in higher education policy” over the past decade.

ACE’s report points to placement in low-wage, unskilled jobs, lack of English fluency, and interrupted schooling during immigration as some of the factors that affect Hispanics’ struggle to reach higher levels of college enrollment and degree attainment.

“Current debates around increased educational attainment or economic sustainability don’t seem to recognize the opportunity this key subgroup may represent,” Ryu said.

The past decade has seen a consistent rise in minority students on college campuses. The white student population shrunk from 68 percent to 59 percent over that time, and the minority student population rose from 25 to 30 percent, according to the report.

Much of that minority growth occurred at two-year colleges, where 36 percent of students were minorities. Twenty-six percent of enrollees at four-year colleges and universities were minorities.

The report confirms other research showing women outperforming men in higher education. In 2008, four in 10 women 25-34 had at least an associate degree. Three in 10 men of the same age range had at least an associate degree.

The ACE report says that “the strides made by women are mostly driven by Asian-American and white women.”

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