Report says Hispanic students earning fewer degrees

ABy Brandi Grissom
Daily TexanUniversity of Texas at Austin

aUSTIN, Texas (U-WIRE) – Hispanic students lag behind in attaining college degrees, but enroll at higher rates than most ethnic groups, according to a report released Thursday.

The report released by the Pew Hispanic Center, “Latinos in Higher Education: Many Enroll, Too Few Graduate,” showed that Hispanic high school graduates are enrolling in college at a higher rate than whites, but aren’t completing their college degrees.

Rick Fry, senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center and author of the report, said the data revealed Hispanic students have difficulties finishing because they often are non-traditional students.

“Factors that play a chief role in Hispanics not finishing baccalaureate degrees are the unique ways in which they go to college,” Fry said. “Many attend school part time rather than full time, and more than any other group, Hispanics attend community colleges.”

Data from the study revealed that 11 percent of Hispanic high school graduates enroll in college. Of those, 34 percent enroll in two-year colleges, compared to 26 percent of their white peers. Thirty-five percent of Hispanics enrolled in college attend part time.

Teresa Sullivan, University of Texas-Austin vice president and dean of graduate studies, said while the increasing number of Hispanics attending college is encouraging, discovering that those students are less likely to get a degree is discouraging.

“The message that college is good is being received,” Sullivan said. “But the message about the payoff is being delayed.”

Sullivan said the complexity of the higher education system may be a deterrent for many Hispanic students.

“Many are confused by the system,” Sullivan said. “Community college students need to have a better understanding of how to transfer to complete their degrees, and four-year degree students need to know more about pursuing their options for professional or graduate degrees.”

Another issue Hispanic students face is financing their educations.

“The total price tag of college is scary to most people,” Sullivan said. “Latinos have much higher rates of working while in college. Sometimes working can erode the value of a student’s education.”

Sullivan suggested universities broaden work-study programs to afford Hispanic students the opportunity to work in an environment close to their studies.

Alexandra Chirinos, student coordinator for the UT chapter of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, said the university could increase its retention rate for Hispanic students by ensuring the availability of support services.

“One of the things the university is beginning to do is make sure those resources that are available are made more public so that at-risk students are aware of those opportunities,” said Chirinos, a Plan II/business honors and finance senior.

The university ranks among the top 20 in the awarding of bachelor’s degrees to Hispanic students and is No. 1 in the nation in the awarding of doctoral degrees.