By Raoul Lowery Contreras
Hispanic high school dropouts hit record lows in 2013 despite 18-24 year olds numbers increasing by 50% since 2001. Think of it, 100 Hispanic students in 2001 have increased to 150 in 2013 but dropouts have dropped more than 30 percent to a record low of 14 percent in those years.
We find this great news in a report issued October 2 by Pew Research’s Richard Fry of the Pew Hispanic Trends Project.
Yes, that 14 percent is still the highest amount– Whites, 5 percent dropout rate, Asians -4 percent, Blacks -8 percent which dropped from 15 percent in 2000; yes, it could be better but think of this: The RAND Corporation of Santa Monica reports that 100 years ago Mexican Americans (The largest “Hispanic” group in the USA then) had an average of 4 years of school; today that group averages over 12 years of school, 13 actually.
By way of contrast, in “THE IRISH IN AMERICA” we find that it took Irish immigrants 80 years to catch up with the country schooling average well into the 20th Century.
A close look at the Pew Report shows us that Hispanic high school graduation has reached 79 percent in 2013 contrasting to only 60 percent in 2000. This trend is important because today Hispanic students make up 25 percent of the American school population and will be 30 percent in 2022.
Another trend is increasing college attendance by Hispanic students. For example, at the largest public four-year university in the world, the California State University system we find that 10 years ago (2003) there were a total of 83,111 fulltime Hispanic students enrolled amounting to 20.3 percent of the statewide student body. In 2013, 136,879 full-time Hispanic students or 31.3 percent of the statewide system of 23 campuses was enrolled.
At the University of California’s 9 campuses, in 2012 we find a total of 238,686 full-time students of which 41,810 were full-time Hispanic students up 11 percent over 2011.
The total between the two four-year public universities, which most experts agree are the two best public systems in the country, is 178,689 full-time Hispanic students. That, however is a small percentage of Hispanic students enrolled in California’s Community College system, the largest in the world.
Of the 1,562,741 full-time statewide students, 451,605 (Spring 2014) are Hispanic. Hispanics were 44 percent of statewide new students and 36.7 percent of returning students.
Nationwide, 18 percent of all college students in the U.S. are Hispanic, up from 12 percent in 2009. That percentage is slightly higher than the national Hispanic population percentage of the country’s population – 15 percent.
Despite this tremendous progress, there are drop-out black holes scattered around the country. Dropout rates in places like the Bronx and Los Angeles plus some rural areas (Rio Grande Valley) continue to plague Hispanics nationally.
From these Hispanic areas, students typically drop out of high school at the rate of 50 percent. Also, these are areas with high poverty which is definitely a barrier to comfortable schooling, except, of course for Asian students, who even those who live in poverty manage a 96 percent high school graduation rate.
Ever since I stepped onto a college campus in 1958 as a student I have preached education to everyone in the Hispanic population, especially parents.
Before I started my public commentary career, I recall hiring a Hispanic high school 15-year old girl to work at my tour company as a summer intern. One day, I had a few minutes with her in which we talked about her private all-girl Catholic school with which I was familiar having attended its companion elementary school. I asked what her plans were and she replied she had no plans other than to graduate from the high school that was costing her family a lot of money.
I told her my plans in high school were simple; I wanted to enlist in the U.S. Marines and stay for a career. That is until my high school history teacher and football coach double-teamed my parents and convinced my mother that I must go to college.
The stories of my college experience came easily and she listened to them. After summer I did not see the girl and had no idea what happened to her, until, one day while doing my talk radio show twenty years later, she called and told my audience how that talk changed her life. She graduated and went on to my alma mater, San Diego State University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She then went on to earn a doctorate in education and was now a school administrator.
She attributed her career to that talk during a business break at San Diego/Tijuana tours.
One down, 53 million to go. Pew’s report is to be celebrated, as are the parents who stand behind those hundreds of thousands of Hispanic kids entering and attending college by greater numbers every year.
Featured Photo Credit: AP
Raoul Lowery Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times