Hispanics surpass blacks in college enrollment

August 25, 2011

Hispanics surpassed blacks in 2010 to become the second-largest racial or ethnic group of young adults in America’s colleges, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data.

The number of Hispanic college students ages 18 to 24 rose by a remarkable 24 percent in one year, to 1.8 million, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center. The federal Current Population Survey found 7.7 million white college students in that age group, 1.7 million black students and 800,000 Asian Americans.

Black students still outnumber Hispanics in the overall college population, which includes older adults.

The population of young Hispanic college students more than doubled since 2000. And the reason is not just growth in the overall population of young Hispanics, which grew 38 percent in that time.

Hispanics are succeeding in U.S. schools at unprecedented levels. The share of young Hispanics completing high school hit 73 percent in 2010, up from 60 percent in 2000, according to Census Bureau data. The share of young Hispanics attending college reached 32 percent last year, up from 22 percent in 2000.

“This is a growing population, but it’s more than that,” said Richard Fry, a senior research associate at Pew. “This is a growing population that is increasingly finishing high school and increasingly going to college. . . . There’s a good message here.”

This milestone was foreshadowed by trends in public high schools, where Hispanics overtook blacks among graduates in 2008, Fry said.

Black students are succeeding in high school and college at higher rates, as well. But the overall black population is not rising at the same pace as the Hispanic population.

The population of non-Hispanic young adult white college students, in contrast, declined by 320,000 in 2010. The overall population of young non-Hispanic whites peaked in 2008 and is in modest retreat. Whites were more likely to attend college in 2010 than in 2000, but the gains have been comparatively small.

Hispanics are more likely than other groups to enroll at two-year community colleges. Young adult black students still outnumber Hispanics on four-year campuses, the report said.

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