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Accelerating Hispanic Progress in Higher Education

As the Hispanic community continues to grow in this country, efforts to accelerate and expand student success in higher education will be critical to the nation’s future competitiveness, says Excelencia in Education President Sarita Brown at a Capitol Hill policy briefing on Tuesday.

Excelencia, a nonprofit organization aimed at increasing Hispanic student achievement in higher education, also released figures on the state of Hispanics in higher education and a separate study concerning Hispanic women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

There were approximately 1.8 million Hispanic college students in 2004, representing about 11 percent of the total student enrollment in higher education. The figure represents a 6 percent increase from 1990, when 782,400 Hispanic students were enrolled. But despite increases in enrollment, only 25 percent of college-age Hispanics — those 18 to 24 years old — were enrolled in college, compared to about 42 percent of Whites, 32 percent of Blacks and 60 percent of Asians.

“The number of Hispanic women going to college has increased more rapidly. In 2004, Hispanic women represented almost 60 percent of all Hispanics in higher education,” said Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia. She noted that about 58 percent of Hispanic undergraduates are enrolled in two-year institutions.

But while Hispanic women enroll in college in greater numbers than Hispanic men, men greatly outnumber women in engineering programs. In 2005, undergraduate Hispanic women represented just 22 percent of Hispanics in engineering programs.

Among STEM faculty, Hispanic women are more likely to teach in biological sciences. By contrast, Hispanic men have their strongest representation in mathematics and computer sciences.

U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, said several areas need to be emphasized to accelerate Hispanic success in higher education: getting first-generation students to enroll, improving financial and college preparation systems and increasing transparency of college costs.

“Studies have shown the ethnic group with the least number of college loans are Hispanics,” Hinojosa said. “We must work to change that.”

By Shilpa Banerji


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