More Latinos Earned Degrees This Past Decade Than Any Time In History

AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
70% more Latinos earned degrees in the past decade than any previous decade.

Last month, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a comprehensive data analysis on the state of education across all educational levels, and it appears enrollment of Latino students at college campuses has increased.

But while Latino enrollment has increased overall, the Latino student population as a whole still lags behind the enrollment rate of other groups. The same pattern exists with the number of college degrees awarded to Latino students.

During the 2017-2018 cycle, there was around 26 million students enrolled in postsecondary institutions in the U.S., including degree and technical/non-degree programs.

While 18-24 year olds enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions only made up 40 percent of the student population in 2017, the majority of the students were non-traditional (above 25 years of age).

Also, according to the NCES data, the year 2010 experienced the largest number of enrolled students, a number which is estimated to be surpassed later in 2028. 

Another fact to consider is that from 2007 to 2017, there was only a slight increase of enrolled students in such educational institutions. Many factors affected the slow growth of enrollment numbers but the financial crisis from 2007-2008 was mainly to blame.

Enrollment numbers for the Latino population between the ages 18-24 increased from 27% in 2007 to 36% in 2017, but was still behind in 2017 compared to the enrollment rate for Caucasians.

This means 36% of Latinos between 18 and 24 were enrolled in college in 2017.

Also according to the NCES data, from 1976 to 2017, the Latino presence in degree-granting postsecondary institutions increased from 4% to 19% overall, whereas during the same period, the percentage of Caucasian students dropped from 84% to 56%.

It was estimated that the number of college degrees awarded (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate’s) increased around 32% over the latest 10-year cycle (from 2005–2006 to 2016–2017).

The largest increase was achieved by Latinos as the number of college degrees awarded to the U.S. Latino population increased by 70% during the same 10-year cycle. This is saying that 70% more Latino students in college managed to earn a college degree from 2005 to 2017. This is in stark comparison with the rise of degrees awarded to other groups (Caucasians increased by 19% during that same 10-year cycle, for example).

The rise of college degrees awarded to Latinos is quite an accomplishment, driven mainly by population changes. But Latino students that earned a college degree only comprised 5% of the total degrees awarded during 2005-2006.

That is only a small 2 percentage points of an increase during the latest 10-year cycle considering that the Latino population is currently the second largest ethnic minority in the U.S.

Also, according to the data from NCES, only 15% of the Latino population (over the age of 25 years) possessed a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2017, which is a lower rate when compared to the entire U.S. population (38% for Non-Latino, Caucasian, 23% for African American,  56% for Asian/Pacific Islander, and 18% for Native American).

And even in states with the largest Latino population (such as New Mexico, California, and Texas), Latinos do not do any better. In New Mexico, where 27% of the population over the age of 25 had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2017, only 16% of the Latino population possessed the equivalent degree.

In California, it was estimated that 34% of the population over the age of 25 had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2017, but only 13% of Latinos population had the same degree.

And in Texas, 30% of the population over the age of 25 had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2017, but only 14% of the Latino population possessed the equivalent degree.

The Latino population should be proud and excited that a greater number of Latinos are earning a college degree and the increase has been climbing rapidly over the last 10 years but there is plenty of room for improvement.

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About the author

Claudia Araiza

Dr. Claudia Araiza has held positions in various capacities in business, academic, and governmental settings ranging from business and economic analysis, business development, academic administration, research, teaching, and online course development. She is a graduate from San Diego State University with a BA degree in International Business and Economics and an MA degree in Economics. She received her PhD in Economics from Claremont Graduate University. She lives in San Diego,California.


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  • Thank you Dr. Araiza.

    Such great progress- yet – we have a LatinO problem now.

    Families are STILL treating boys as revenue streams and not scholars – the men are NOT going to university. They’re enlisting in the military or going to work “to help the family” (reasons given in a Pew Hispanic Research about why Hispanic adults don’t go to college).

    We LatinAs are the scholars. 🙂

    National Education Statistics show that for every ONE Latino who graduates from university, THREE Latinas graduate. 3-to-1!

    Time to work on getting our sons to SEE themselves as scholars and not future Costco employees after high school…