As the Obama administration aims to reach their college graduation goals by the end of the decade, attention turns to the over 50 million Hispanics in the U.S.
As the largest minority population in the country, Latinos college graduation rates will play a key role in the nation's quest to become the world leader in college completion by 2020. Hispanic students will need to earn 5.5 million certificates or degrees over the next several years for the U.S. to meet Obama's goal, according to Excelencia in Education's initiative, "Ensuring America's Future by Increasing Latino College Completion,". Excelencia in Education is a Washington, D.C.-based education research organization.
Socio-economic factors, however, limit Latino access to college and graduation rates.
"Over 40 percent of Latinos who are enrolled in college are the first in their family to go to college. And so you already have issues not just of enrollment but persistence to completion that require academic support," Deborah Santiago, Excelencia in Education's co-founder and vice president for policy and research, told The Huffington Post.
Earlier this month, the Pew Hispanic Center reported that Hispanics became the largest minority group on college campuses across the country--with 2 million Latino students enrolling in two-year and four-year college institutions in 2011.
Despite this increase, Latino high school and college graduation rates continue to lag behind those of other groups. The majority of Latinos who earn degrees also do not leave campus with degrees in fields with strong hiring prospects or high-earning potential. With many economists predicting that the nation's labor market will remain tepid for some time, the drive to expand the Hispanic college completion rate could benefit from aligning what more students study to workforce needs.
A close look at the related states of Latino education and employment, indicate that the outlook -- while improving -- remains far from promising:
In July, the national unemployment rate sat at 8.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nation's Latino workers faced the second highest unemployment rate in the country, with 10.3 percent, seeking work but unable to find it. Latino unemployment has become such a persistent problem that in July, Latino joblessness sat just 1 percent lower than it did during the same period a year ago. Other groups of workers are also struggling. Women over 20 continue to face a higher unemployment rate (10.5 percent) than men of the same age (8.2 percent).
In 2010, Hispanics made up 14.8 percent of the nation's workforce, according to federal data. By 2020, that figure is projected to rise to 18.6 percent. Where will the jobs be? The 10 occupations expected to grow at the fastest pace by 2010: 1) Personal Care Aides (Jobs in health, beauty, and fitness) 2) Home Health Aides 3) Biomedical Engineers 4) Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters 5) Helpers--Carpenters 6) Veterinary Technologists and Technicians 7) Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers 8) Physical Therapist Assistants 9) Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters 10) Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners Click here to see a list of the 20 fastest-growing occupations on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. (See Table 1)
Sixteen of the 20 occupations expected to grow most rapidly by 2020, require a high school diploma or its equivalent. Four occupations that require less than a high school diploma rank near the top of this list. However, the median wages paid to these workers at the start of the decade lay between $19,000 and $28,000. Workers in other fast-growing occupations on the list, such as Biomedical Engineering, were paid much more. Biomedical Engineers, the nation's third fastest-growing group of workers, also enjoyed the highest median wage ($81, 540). Entering this field requires at least a Bachelor's degree. Click here to see wages and education data for all 20 occupations on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website. (See Table 1)
While less than half of the 20 fastest growing occupations are in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), studies have noted that these fields often prove to be the most lucrative for minority students. Biomedical Engineering anyone? Click here to view the 25 colleges producing the largest number of Latino graduates with STEM degrees.
In August, a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of new Census Bureau data showed that in 2011, for the first time, Hispanics students made up the largest minority group on college campuses. Over 2 million students ages 18 to 24 are enrolled two-year and four-year institutions. The same report showed that last year Hispanics also made up a record 24 percent of all students in public schools, pre-K through 12th grade.
Despite an increase in enrollment, the number of Hispanics graduating from two-year and four-year institutions lags behind that of other groups. In 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, 112,000 associate degrees and 140,000 bachelor's degrees were awarded to Hispanics, compared to the 1.2 million bachelor's degrees given to non-Hispanic white students and the 165,000 bachelor's degrees awarded to non-Hispanic black students. Nevertheless, the number of Hispanics graduating from college continues to grow. In 2010 the number was seven times higher than it was four decades before. The number of Latino students graduating from high school has also grown, a 76 percent rise from 2010 to 2011. However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the Hispanic high school dropout rate of 15.1 percent continues to outpace that of all other racial and ethnic groups.
In spite of job and pay opportunities in STEM occupations, Hispanics represent a small number of those receiving degrees in this field. In 2010, Latinos were awarded 8 percent of all STEM certificates and degrees, according to Excelencia in Education's 'Finding Your Workforce' series. The Washington, D.C-based research organizationaims to link Hispanic students with the needs of the U.S. workforce. The top field graduating Latinos was Science, with 10,900 degrees conferred, followed by Engineering, with 9,930 degrees. The organization also found that in both health and STEM fields, Latinos were concentrated in lower paying jobs. In health most were employed within support occupations (such as health aides) rather than practitioners (like dentists and surgeons). In STEM fields, the majority were employed in service jobs (like telecommunications line installers and repairers) rather than professional occupations (such as engineering managers).
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