Hispanic Students Need Degree Data

Paul E. Peterson
Year of publication: 
August 15, 2017

As compared to other undergraduates, Hispanic students are 33 percent more likely to be enrolled in a two-year college rather than a four-year university. According to the National Center on Educational Statistics, Hispanic students constituted 23 percent of the 2014 undergraduate enrollments in colleges offering an associate's degree, but only 17 percent of the enrollment in institutions offering a bachelor's.

Yet the value of a bachelor's diploma has never been greater. According to the College Board, students who get a bachelor's earn, on average, 33 percent more annually than do students who receive only an associate's degree ($61,400 versus $46,000).

Providing parents of Hispanic high school graduates with accurate cost-benefit information could help close this opportunity gap in higher education. We discovered that possibility when we conducted an information experiment as part of a just released, nationally representative, survey of American adults conducted by my colleagues and me at the education journal Education Next. When Hispanic Americans are given accurate information, the share that would have their children pursue a four-year degree is as high as the white percentage.

Admittedly, many factors – grades, family resources, grit and much more – affect college choices. Still, the parental need for high-quality, specific information is critical, especially when the advantages of a community college have become part of the nation's political discourse. Speaking at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin last April, President Donald Trump said, "Vocational education is the way of the future." A month later, his Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao elaborated, "The good news is that workers don't need an expensive four-year degree to access those good-paying jobs." The Third Way, a middle-of-the-road think tank, warns against excessive focus on four-year programs: "Many jobs with shortages don't require a college degree," it says.