Hispanics Are Now the Largest Minority in College

A new study shows that Hispanic college enrollment reached new highs in 2011.

While college enrollment numbers of Hispanic students have increased, graduation rates are still low.
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For the first time in history, enrollments at four-year colleges for Hispanic students between 18 and 24 topped 2 million in 2011. Hispanics are now the largest minority on college campuses, making up roughly 16.5 percent of all U.S. college students, according to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center that used newly available U.S. Census Bureau data. Hispanics are also making strides in two-year colleges, according to the study, making up roughly one quarter of all 18-to-24-year-old students.

"The new milestones reflect a number of continuing upward trends," the study's authors write. "Between 1972 and 2011, the Latino share of 18- to 24-year-old college students [in four-year colleges] steadily grew—rising from 2.9% to 16.5%."

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This growth in Hispanic college enrollment has also translated to a growth in the number of degrees earned. A record 140,000 Latinos earned a bachelor's degree in 2010, while 112,000 Latinos earned an associate degree, also a record-setting number, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

These rapid increases in enrollment and degrees earned may have been influenced by the "rapid Latino population growth … over the past four decades," according to the study's authors. In fact, along with being the largest minority on college campuses, Hispanics are also the largest minority group in the United States, making up roughly 16.5 percent of the country's population, according to the most recent census data.

But this population growth is also paired with the fact that more Hispanics than ever before in the United States are eligible to attend college. In 2011, according to the study, 76 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 24 finished high school—the highest completion percentage in history.

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Unfortunately, the percentage increase in high school completion rate does not strongly translate to a higher completion rate at four-year colleges. In 2010, only 9 percent of Hispanics enrolled in a four-year college or university earned a bachelor's degree, compared to 10 percent of black students and 71 percent of white students who earned their bachelor's degrees that year.

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