The report finds that more Latinos are earning high school diplomas and entering college, but remain underrepresented in every segment of higher education and have significantly lower levels of college degree attainment than other racial/ethnic groups. In fact, only 12% of Latino working-age adults (between 25- and 64-years old) have a bachelor's degree compared with 42% of White adults.
The report asserts that statewide public policies and college and university practices are major barriers to Latino students completing college. A broken college remedial education system, admissions policies that bar the consideration of race/ethnicity, state disinvestment in higher education, and the absence of a statewide plan for higher education are several of the factors contributing to low degree attainment rates for Latinos.
The good news is that Latinos are now more likely to have a high school diploma and complete the college preparatory A-G courses than in years past. They are enrolling in college in larger numbers and are more likely to graduate with a college degree than two decades ago. Each new generation of Latino Californians is more educated than previous ones.
But overall, the educational attainment of the Latino population lags other racial/ethnic groups. Too few Latino students are being prepared to enter college when less than one in three (29%) Latino high school graduates complete the coursework necessary to be eligible applicants to the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems. Even when prepared, eligible applicants are still finding it challenging to secure a spot at some of the state's public universities. At the UC, for example, admission rates for Latinos have declined by 28 points since 1994. Once on a college campus, Latino students, many of whom are first in their families to go to college, do not receive the supports and guidance to transfer and earn a degree on time. The six-year completion rates for Latinos at the California Community Colleges and the California State University, where 76% of Latinos are enrolled, are 39% and 45%, respectively.
The results of the study come as the California economy is facing a shortage of college graduates. “Workforce preparedness continues to be one of the top concerns for the business community. “The State of Higher Education in California – Latino Report” demonstrates the critical need to better prepare Latino students to achieve academic success that meets the demands of our global economy,” said Rob Lapsley, President of the California Business Roundtable. “If we are going to remain competitive, our colleges and universities must do better to address the ongoing barriers that jeopardize Latino students' ability to complete their education and succeed in our 21st Century workplace.”
“The future of our economy and the state will rise or fall on the educational success of Latinos,” said Michele Siqueiros, President of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “When you realize that one in two children under 18 is Latino and that California is going to face a shortage of 2.3 million college educated workers in the next ten years, then you have to care about increasing the number of Latino students who are prepared for, enroll in and graduate from college.”
California's colleges and universities are not adapting to serve the students in their classrooms. Today's students tend to be first in their families to go to college, work more hours, may be older and may have already started families, and are typically low-income or financially independent. Today's students and the workforce they will enter are different from students and the workforce fifty years ago, but the state's public colleges and universities are taking the same approach to delivering course material and supports which do not meet the needs of today's students or California's economy.
“Simply hoping more Latinos will earn college credentials is not a strategy for meeting California's serious workforce crisis. We need a plan with resources behind it to fix the points at which our colleges and universities are letting promising Latino students fall out of the system,” said Siqueiros.
The report highlights that although Latinos have the greatest graduation success at the University of California relative to their graduation rates at the California Community Colleges and California State University, they are significantly underrepresented in the system. The data suggests this is partly a result of Proposition 209, the 1996 measure that prohibits the state from considering race, sex or ethnicity in employment, contracting and education. An examination of two decades of data revealed that admission rates for Latinos have declined by 28 points overall, 45 points at UC Berkeley and 46 points at UCLA -- far in excess of the drops in admission rates of other racial/ethnic groups.
“The disparities highlighted in this report are critical as we plan the future of the state of California,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel and Chair of the board of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “The report should lead to immediate legislative and administrative efforts to address the serious education gaps identified, which threaten our state's continued leadership nationally and globally.”
The report first and foremost calls on the Governor, legislature and college leaders for an overarching plan to close opportunity gaps between Latinos and their White and Asian peers and address the looming workforce crisis.
The report outlines a series of recommendations to help increase college access and success:
- Ensure all colleges successfully move students through pre-college level courses, quickly and with improved retention rates
- Provide students with clear transfer pathways to four-year degrees
- Expand college knowledge in middle and high school and invest in support services students need to succeed
- Fund colleges for both enrollment growth and successful outcomes
- Strengthen financial support options for low-to moderate-income college students Allow California's public universities to use race/ethnicity as one of many factors in weighing an applicant's qualifications for admission.
California is undergoing one of the largest demographic, cultural and economic transformations in its history,” said Siqueiros. “Whether we address or ignore the challenges and opportunities of strengthening educational success for the burgeoning Latino population will define our economic and democratic success as a state and nation for decades to come.”
Source: College Campaign.org press release, Report Finds California Failing to Produce Enough Latino College Grads: Future of State Economy in Jeopardy, by Audrey Dow, April 29, 2015