Over half of Latine students considered leaving college last year

Between Fall 2022 and Fall 2023, Latine undergraduate enrollment rose by 4.2%—the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups—but barriers to persistence could make it difficult for those students to complete their degree, a new report cautions. Published by the Lumina Foundation and Gallup, The State of Higher Education study focuses on pathways and impediments to college enrollment and persistence. 

From Oct. 26 to Nov. 17, 2022, Gallup surveyed a total of 12,015 U.S. adults ages 18 to 59 with a high school degree or an equivalent, including currently enrolled college students; some college, no degree students; and adults who never enrolled in college. Results showed that 41% of enrolled students had considered stopping out of college in the past six months for at least one term, a seven-percentage-point rise since 2020. 

The sentiment was especially prevalent among Latine students, 52% of whom said they had considered stopping out, a 10-percentage-point increase since 2020. Latine students “continue to be the most likely racial and/or ethnic group to report they have considered stopping out of their program,” the study says. This is particularly concerning, the study adds, since Latine students have lower college completion rates. Latine students were also most likely to report that it was “difficult” or “very difficult” to stay enrolled, compared to students from other racial and ethnic groups.

Related: Black, Latine students remain underrepresented at state flagship universities >

Supporting Latine students’ needs

The top reasons Latine students considered pausing their studies were similar to those cited by students from other racial and/or ethnic backgrounds, including emotional stress, personal mental health reasons, college costs, and inflation. However, Latine students were more likely than white adults to cite emotional stress, mental/physical health reasons, a lack of academic preparedness, and childcare and caregiving responsibilities as barriers.

Experts say Latine college students who juggle responsibilities such as full-time employment and caregiving have different needs than so-called “traditional” college students, according to NBC News. Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit evaluating how institutions support Latine students, also reports that 44% of Latine students are first-generation college students.

Addressing financial factors is important to student retention. Nearly six in 10 students enrolled in associate or bachelor’s degree programs said financial aid or scholarships were reasons why they were able to remain enrolled, according to the study’s findings. Programs that serve first-generation college students, nontraditional, and low-income students, such as the University of Central Florida’s LEAD Scholars Academy and California University’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) boost Latine student retention by addressing students’ academic success and sense of belonging.

“It’s the holistic approach. While you’re here on campus, we do attend to your academic success, but we know that it’s important that you have a sense of belonging,” Danielle Chambers, the director of California State University, Los Angeles’s EOP tells NBC News.

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