June 23, 2004

Latino Youth Finishing College

The Role Of Selective Pathways

The gap in the number of Latino and white college students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree is wider even than the very substantial differences in high school completion and constitutes the greatest disparity in educational outcomes between the nation’s largest minority group and the white majority. This report assesses the dimensions of the gap in bachelor’s degree completion between Latinos and whites and some of the factors that contribute to it by focusing on the differing fates of young people who graduate from high school with similar levels of academic preparation.

The gap in white/Hispanic bachelor’s degree completion could be substantially closed if well-prepared Latino youth attended the same kind of colleges as similarly prepared whites and graduated at the same rate. Instead the study finds that well prepared Latinos attend post secondary institutions that are less selective and have lower BA completion rates than similarly prepared whites and that even when well-prepared Latinos go to the same kind of schools as their white peers, they have lower graduation rates.

Among the best prepared young college students, nearly 60 percent of Latinos attend non-selective colleges and universities, in comparison to 52 percent of white students. Among students who are less well prepared–those in the second to fourth quintile of high school academic intensity (the majority of both Hispanic and white students)– nearly 66 percent of Latinos initially enroll in “open-door” institutions. Less than 45 percent of similarly prepared white college students initially enroll at open-door institutions.

In attainment of a bachelor’s degree, disparities are evident across the spectrum of higher education. For example, white youth beginning at community colleges are nearly twice as likely as Hispanic youth beginning at community colleges to finish a bachelor’s degree. Significant gaps in completion rates are evident among those starting in the four-year college sector as well. Comparing the best prepared white and Latino college students at non-selective colleges and universities, 81 percent of whites complete a bachelor’s degree and 57 percent of Latinos.