Poll Shows Disparity Between Hispanics’ College Dreams, Attainment

Gainesville Sun, July 29, 2010

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{snip} [An] Associated Press-Univision poll . . . examined the attitudes of Latino adults toward higher education. Despite strong belief in the value of a college diploma, Hispanics more often than not fall short of that goal.

The findings have broad implications not only for educators and parents, but for the economy.

In the next decade, U.S. companies will have to fill millions of jobs to replace well-trained baby boomers going into retirement. As the nation’s largest minority group, Latinos account for a growing share of the pool of workers, yet their skills may not be up to par. Aware of the challenge, some California State University campuses are reaching out to Hispanic children as early as the fourth grade.

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Indeed, the poll, also sponsored by The Nielsen Company and Stanford University, found that Hispanics value higher education more than do Americans as a whole. Eighty-seven percent said a college education is extremely or very important, compared with 78 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Ninety-four percent of Latinos say they expect their own children to go to college, a desire that’s slightly stronger for girls. Seventy-four percent said the most important goal for a girl right after high school is to attend a four-year college, compared with 71 percent for boys.

Enthusiasm about higher education hasn’t been matched by results.

Census figures show that only 13 percent of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 30 percent among Americans overall.

The poll revealed some of the roadblocks: Latinos don’t have enough money, yet many are reluctant to borrow. Family obligations intervene. Parents and teachers provide only lukewarm support.

Fifty-four percent said their own parents either did not expect them to go to college, or did not care either way.

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In the poll, just 29 percent cited poor grades in high school as an extremely or very important reason for not going to college.

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Affordability was the top reason for not completing a college degree, cited by 54 percent as “extremely” or “very” important. Financial pressure is magnified by a reluctance to borrow that appears to be cultural.

Even among Latinos who are U.S. citizens by birth, only 32 percent said they had borrowed to finance education, compared with 39 percent of the general population. Aversion to debt was even stronger among the foreign-born.

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