Latino students less likely to complete B.A.s

Researcher says Latino students face more pressure than other students.

Mehgan Lee

Hispanic undergraduates are less than half as likely as white undergraduates to complete a bachelor’s degree, according to a national study released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The study examined data from a U.S. Department of Education survey. The survey tracked 25,000 eighth-graders in 1988 until most were 26 years old in 2000.

It found that 47 percent of white undergraduates complete a bachelor’s degree, while only 23 percent of Hispanic undergraduates do.

“It partly reflects the colleges and universities that Latinos choose to attend,” said Richard Fry, the study’s senior research associate.

College selectivity is closely related to college completion rates, Fry said.

But “equally prepared whites and Latinos at similar institutions still don’t complete degrees at the same rate,” he said.

This is because Hispanic students are more likely than white students to delay college enrollment, enroll part-time, live off-campus and have extra family responsibilities, he said.

Nubia Esparza, a Hispanic graduate student in public policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said she was not surprised by the results of the study. She has seen a lot of her Hispanic friends drop out of college, she said.

“A lot has to do with financial aid,” she said. “There are a lot of Latino students who can’t continue going to school because they don’t have the funding for it.”

Diana Barillas, who graduated from the University last spring and is an officer in La Raza Student Cultural Center, a Chicano and Latino student group on campus, said she believes Hispanic students face more pressure than white students.

“A lot of Latino students have to take on extra jobs and are the first in their family to go to college,” she said.

Although the report doesn’t show it, Fry said he believes the environment on college campuses also plays a role in low Hispanic graduation rates.

Barillas said she agreed with Fry’s theory.

“Campuses cater more to white students then Latino students,” she said. “As a Latino, you’re not completely welcome; you’re not completely at home on campus.”

Geoffrey Maruyama, assistant vice president of multicultural affairs at the University, said the biggest challenge the University faces is creating a multicultural environment where all students feel comfortable and accepted.

“We’ve been increasing the diversity of our faculty, so when students come in they can see faculty that look like them,” he said.

The University also has a number of academic and social programs for minority students and holds multicultural seminars and events every fall for incoming first-year students, he said.

But with the student population constantly changing, it can be difficult to reach everyone, he said.

Statistics at the University’s office of research and reporting from 1997 reflect the study. In a six-year period, 57 percent of full-time white students entering college for the first time got their bachelor’s degrees on the Twin Cities campus. During that time, 44 percent of Hispanic and Chicano students who met the same criteria received bachelor’s degrees.

“I really hope this is something the administration will realize is a problem and do something to remedy it,” Esparza said.