Latinx students underrepresented at public colleges and universities, report finds

Latinx students have the lowest college attainment rate of any major U.S. racial and ethnic group and are underrepresented at public colleges and universities, according to a new report from The Education Trust. The study, “Broken Mirrors II: Latino Student Representation at Public State Colleges and Universities,” reflects Census Bureau data from the 44 U.S. states with more than 15,000 Latino residents between ages 25-64, and compares the percentage of Latinx students at public colleges and universities in each state with the percentage of Latinx residents in that state. 

Public institutions play a large role in determining Latinx degree attainment, given that around 85 percent of Latinx undergraduates attend public colleges and universities, EdTrust analysts note

Report highlights widespread underrepresentation

The report indicates that Latinx students are overwhelmingly underrepresented at public institutions in 40 of the 44 states analyzed, especially at community and technical colleges. Latinos were underrepresented among associate and bachelor’s degree earners in all 44 states. 

The researchers also found that states with the biggest Latinx populations had especially large disparities in access to selective four-year institutions between Latinx students and their white peers—gaps of more than 10 percentage points in states like California, Florida, New York, and Texas.

The researchers highlight several positive findings, as well. Florida and New Mexico, for instance, “stand out among states with large Latino populations as having higher marks on both associate degree earner and bachelor’s degree earner representation,” they write. 

Calling on states to boost Latinx students’ access

Pointing out that the Latinx population is one of the country’s fastest-growing demographic groups, EdTrust says it hopes the findings will spark action. “Our main purpose here is to put pressure on state policy makers and leaders to provide more access to higher education for these populations and it’s also to provide tools for advocates,” J. Oliver Schak, the lead author on the report, told Diverse Issues in Higher Education. 

Specifically, EdTrust urges states to set race and ethnicity-specific degree attainment goals, reward institutions with strong outcomes for students of color, make financial aid available to students who have completed some college but wish to finish their degree, and invest in community college programs that help Latinx students complete their high school equivalency credential so they can pursue higher education. 

Saying that the need for college-educated workers will only grow, the researchers caution that “failure to improve college attainment for Latinos will threaten the nation’s economic security and competitiveness.”

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