Over half of all Hispanic undergraduates, drawn from 16% of Americans, are enrolled in only 10% of its colleges.
The breakthrough findings by Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C. research and advocacy non-profit organization. They show that 293 colleges in 17 states and Puerto Rico are doing the bulk of Hispanic enrollments. The finding has important public-policy implications.
How will institutions mobilize is a key indicator to the potential success of the White House’s higher-education policy. President Obama asserted a goal, in July 18, for 60 percent of Americans to obtain a high-quality, two- or four-year college degree or credentials by 2025. America’s economic future, he said, depends on becoming more competitive in the global economy.
Key elements to that success are continuing Hispanic enrollment, retention, quality education and completion at higher- education institutions responding to the challenge.
Of the nation’s 2,900 higher education institutions, only 293 colleges are responsible for enrolling 54 percent of Hispanic undergraduate students. These colleges, with 25 percent or more Latinos undergraduates, are known as “Hispanic-serving institutions,” or HSIs. These are all accredited, degree-granting public or private nonprofit institutions. HSI is a category that has grown since 1995 from 236 to 293.
HSIs are densely concentrated in three states and Puerto Rico, according to Excelencia California, with (89) has more than 30 percent of those institutions, followed by Puerto Rico (56), Texas (49), and New Mexico with 24.
Excelencia’s co-founder and vice president, Deborah Santiago says where Hispanics are geographically concentrated is a key factor but does not alone determine the recent dynamic enrollment increases and why new HSIs have arisen. Otherwise, some of the major universities in large urban areas would number more prominently among them the 10 percent.
Santiago is a former Department of Education policy analyst who served as an official with the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans during the Clinton Administration before co-founding the research and advocacy group, Excelencia.
Hispanic college enrollments reached an all-time high of 12.2 million in October 2010, growing 349,000 in one year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. The analysis of U.S. Census data shows that the 24 percent Hispanics increase in 2009 to 2010 coincided with a 320,000 decline in non-Hispanic white enrollments during the same period.
Hispanic college enrollments have spiked at the same time there has been a 7 percent increase among 18- to 24-year-olds in that population.
The undergraduate rate of increase among young Hispanics has been increasing in recent years: by 13% in 1972, to 27% in 2009, and 32% in 2010.
In 2006-07, about 70 percent of Latino undergraduates were concentrated in California, Texas, Florida, and New York and Puerto Rico, according to the National Center of Educational Statistics. Today, the high enrollment density has spread to more states and institutions.
This trend might hold the best evidence that the Obama education policy for increasing college completions could be within reach if institutions are encouraged, successful programs replicated, new engagement strategies crafted and the initiative is sustained. New higher-education strategies are important to both recruiting and retaining Hispanic undergraduates, says Santiago.
Excelencia she says, will next focus on “intentionality.” Those are the quality measures that make some institutions successful at retaining and graduating Hispanics by “providing a quality education resulting in graduating students.”