Fewer Latinos pick 4-year colleges

Latino students are the most likely to choose community colleges rather than four-year schools, according to an analysis of federal data by the Pew Hispanic Center.  Students who start at a community college are much less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than those who start at a four-year college or university. From Education Week:

Nationwide, 48 percent of Latinos who are first-time, full-time college freshmen enroll in four-year institutions. That’s the lowest proportion of any major racial or ethnic group, Richard Fry, a senior research associate for the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center, found in an analysis of 2008 data from the federally administered Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Meanwhile, the proportion of students enrolling in four-year institutions is 69 percent for Asian or Pacific Islander students, 66 percent for whites, 54 percent for blacks, and 53 percent for American Indians or Alaska Natives.

“Even when Hispanics go to four-year schools, they tend to go to the less academically selective ones,” which have lower graduation rates, said Fry.

Also, he said, Latinos on average are less academically prepared than students from some other racial and ethnic groups, prompting many students to pick community colleges for their less-selective admissions processes.

Fewer low-income students are starting at four-year colleges, and Latinos tend to come from low-income families. In addition, Latinos are concentrated in states with well-developed community college systems.

In most Latino families, neither parent went to college.  Parents can’t guide their children through the system, so students rely on guidance counselors to tell them what classes to take, what tests are needed and, especially, how to get financial aid.  If the counselor has low expectations — or no time — the students will settle for the nearest, least expensive college or none at all.

A federally funded study assigned mentors to Los Angeles Unified high school students who were academically prepared for college. Starting at the end of junior year, mentors helped students write and revise an essay and apply for federal aid to attend public universities in California.

The study found that before the intervention was launched, 50 percent of the students in Los Angeles Unified Schools who were qualified to attend the four-year state schools weren’t going, according to Jacqueline Berman, who was the project director for the study, which began in 2006. “These kids don’t need remedial math and reading. They just need to know how to get into college and how to afford it,” she said.

At a cost about $1,000 per student, the mentors increased the number of students going to state universities compared to a control group that received no special help.

In an AP-Univision poll, more than eight in 10 Hispanics said higher education is the most important goal for children graduating from high school; most want their children to go to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree.  Ninety-four percent say they expect their children to actually go to college – more than double the number who say their own parents expected them to do so.

“There’s many ways they can succeed here,” Ana Mendoza, 33, of Mission, Texas, said of her four children. To achieve that, she says, “it’s an obligation to finish school.”

However, 37 percent of Hispanics are not high school graduates, compared with 14 percent of the overall population, and only 12 percent of Hispanics are college graduates compared to 27 percent of the general population.

Immigrants are “likelier than U.S.-born Latinos to expect their children to attend college and to have better lifestyles than they do,” reports the Huffington Post.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON July 27, 2010

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