Low Hispanic College Graduation Rates Could Threaten National Education Goals, Report Finds

Low Hispanic College Graduation Rates Could Threaten National Education Goals, Report Finds

Hispanic students generally graduate from four-year colleges and universities at lower rates than their white peers, even among schools with similar admissions standards, a new report from the American Enterprise Institute finds.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report, Rising to the Challenge: Hispanic College Graduation Rates as a National Priority (48 pages, PDF), found that 51 percent of Hispanic students who start college complete a bachelor's degree in six years, compared to 59 percent of white students — a disparity that holds true regardless of student ability or school competitiveness. Even many federally designated "Hispanic-serving" institutions are graduating fewer than half their Hispanic students. Colleges and universities that do a better job graduating their Hispanic students typically have high completion rates across the board, suggesting that institutional commitment to college completion drives higher graduation rates for all students, including minorities.

In response to these and other factors, the report calls for institution-wide commitments to ensuring that all students graduate; the dissemination of information about schools that have a successful track record with Hispanic students to help better match Hispanic students with colleges and universities; and reforming government funding to colleges and universities so that it is tied more closely to how well schools serve their students, rather than how many students they enroll. With the Hispanic population in the United States growing rapidly, the report questions whether the nation will be able to achieve the president's goal of reclaiming its status as the world's best-educated country if changes are not made to help boost Hispanic college completion rates.

"Educating all students well and getting them across the finish line is the biggest challenge facing higher education today," said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success, and special initiatives at the Gates Foundation. "These are the students who are going to replace the baby boomers and who we will rely on to drive our economy over the next several decades."

"Low Hispanic College Graduation Rates Threaten U.S. Attainment Goals." Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 03/18/2010.