More California Latinos are graduating from college, according to a state profile by Excelencia in Education. The number of Latinos earning undergraduate degrees grew by 13 percent in the state between 2006 and 2008, while other groups saw an 8 percent increase.
However, the college gap is large: Only 16 percent of Latino adults are college graduates, compared to 39 percent of all working-age adults in the state.
Some 75 percent of Latino college students are enrolled in community colleges, which have low graduation rates. Looking just at first-time, full-time college students, the Latino completion rate is 35 percent, compared to 47 percent for similar white students, the profile found.
Several pilot programs are boosting Latino success rates, Excelencia notes.
The group suggests that California policy makers focus on closing the gap through programs that provide institutional support for community-college students transferring to four-year institutions, like the University of California’s Puente Project, or peer and faculty mentoring, such as California State Polytechnic University’s Science Educational Enhancement Services.
“A combination of low college enrollment coupled with low college completion rates spells disaster for Latinos and the California economy precisely at a time when we are predicted to face a shortage of one million more college graduates by 2025,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of Campaign for College Opportunity, in response to the Excelencia report.
The campaign recommends expanding Early Commitment to College, which tells middle-school students about college opportunities and financial aid, funding state colleges and universities to serve the growing Latino young adult population and improving transfer pathways between community colleges and the California State University system.
“Current Latino college completion rates are an urgent call to action. The young and growing Latino population can spell long-term economic prosperity for California if smart investments and reforms are made today,” said Siqueiros.