Hispanic Enrollment Jumps 24%, Making Those Students the Largest Campus Minority

August 25, 2011

A 24-percent spike in Hispanic college enrollment has brought the number of Hispanic young people attending college to an all-time high and made them the largest minority group of 18- to 24-year-olds on campuses in the country, according to a report released on Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The report, drawing on new Census data, says the number of young Hispanics enrolling in college grew by 349,000 from 2009 to 2010. As a result, in 2010 they outnumbered young blacks on college campuses for the first time.

Population growth was not as large a factor in the spike as Hispanics' increased rate of eligibility for college, the report says. From 2009 to 2010, the population of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics grew only 7 percent. But more Hispanic young adults were eligible to attend college than ever before—nearly 73 percent had finished high school—and more college-eligible Hispanic youths enrolled in college than ever before. A possible long-term factor that raised enrollment rates may be the increasing value of a college education to a worker's income, the report says.

Much of the growth stems from Hispanic enrollment at community colleges. Young Hispanics are enrolling in community colleges at a much greater rate than are their peers, and young black students remain the largest minority group at the country's four-year colleges. In 2010, one million young Hispanics enrolled at four-year institutions, compared with 800,000 at two-year colleges, and of all young Hispanics attending college last October, only 54 percent were at four-year colleges. By contrast, 63 percent of all young black students, 73 percent of young white students, and 78 percent of young Asian students were attending four-year colleges.

Young Hispanics also still enroll at a lower rate than young students of other ethnicities—even though the gap has narrowed lately—due largely to poor levels of basic education among Hispanic immigrants. Black, Asian, and white young adults are still more likely to be enrolled in college than are Hispanic young adults, who have only a 32-­percent enrollment rate compared with the next lowest rate, of 38 percent, among blacks.

College-completion rates among Hispanics also lag. Hispanic young adults are still the least likely of any major ethnic group to have completed college or earned a degree.

Black and Asian enrollment rates also grew from 2009 to 2010, with 88,000 and 43,000 more young black and Asian students enrolling, respectively. White students were the only ethnic group for which the Pew Hispanic Center reported negative growth: 320,000 fewer young white students enrolled in 2010 than in 2009, a 4-percent drop. Richard Fry, the author of the report and a senior research associate at the center, said he did not have data illustrating the reasons for the decline, but he noted that the population of young whites has shrunk since 2008, and the rate at which white students complete high school dropped a percentage point from 2009 to 2010.