Hispanic Students Aspire to Higher Education but Face Barriers

Nearly nine in 10 Hispanics say it’s "necessary" to get a college education to get ahead in life — more than any other ethnic or racial group in the USA. But Hispanic students’ plans to get an actual diploma fall well below those of other groups, a survey finds: Fewer than half of Hispanic 18- to 25-year-olds say they plan to get a bachelor’s degree, well below the 60% of all young people who say the same.

The findings, reported in a survey released today by the Pew Hispanic Center, suggest several reasons for the divide between aspirations and reality, including language barriers, parents’ abilities to play an active role in education and students’ desires to help support their families.

"Frankly, no one reason really jumps out," says Mark Lopez, Pew associate director and author of the study.

The findings point to a stark contrast that Lopez and others say could change public perceptions about Hispanic students and help schools reconfigure how they work with students’ families.

For instance, 74% of Hispanic students who drop out of high school or don’t finish college cite the need to support their family. Only 39% say they "don’t need more education."

And for many Hispanic students, families are both inspirational and problematic: More than three-fourths say their parents believe going to college is "the most important thing for you to do right after high school," but among Hispanics of all ages, 57% say a "major reason" that Hispanic students aren’t doing better is because parents don’t play an active role in their children’s education.

Nationwide, Census data show, 24% of Hispanic young people ages 18 to 24 are enrolled in college or graduate school. Among all groups, the average is 34%.

Carola Suarez-Orozco of New York University says that while Hispanic parents consistently say education is important, they don’t always have "the tangible skills" and social networks that help teenagers get into a top college.

And because many Hispanic families "tend to be more debt-averse," students are reluctant to take on heavy loan debt — instead, she says, many take on part-time jobs, which makes it harder to succeed in class.

Many Hispanic students settle for pursuing a two-year degree at a community college, but only about one in 10 eventually earn one.

"They get kind of stuck and never navigate their way out," she says.


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