In the past decade, 70 percent more Latinx have earned degrees than ever before, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). As the U.S. Latinx population grew to a record 59.9 million in 2018, up from 47.8 million in 2008, it’s apparent the growth is also leading to a spike in degree-earning Latinx.
However, Latinx enrollment has increased overall. The Latinx student population as a whole is still less than enrollment rates and degrees earned among other ethnic groups. Latinx between the ages 18-24 increased from 27 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2017 and the associate’s degree level, the number of associate degrees earned by Latinx students more than tripled with a 242 percent increase, from 57,300 to 196,000, from 2000-01 and 2015-16.
This triumph is not just about having earned more degrees, it’s doing so without the financial leverage other students may have, and also generally being the first in their family to go to college.
“We’re determined to get all our students across the finish line in the same amount of time, but we’re not all at the same starting line,” Andrew Hamilton, associate dean for student success at the University of Houston, told PBS.
Millennial Latinas with an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree grew 70 percent over the past two decades — from 17 percent of Latinas in 2000 to 30 percent in 2017. They outpaced Latinos, 56 percent, and non-Latina females, 35 percent, according to a report on U.S. Latinas by NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises and Comcast NBCUniversal.
However, cultural expectations still affect Latinas on their path toward higher education, with expectations that they take care of their family even as they struggle to meet the demands of their classes. However, success also varies from institution to institution and part of that success relies on how the faculty reflects the diversity of the student body.
“You learn better when you can relate to the professor,” Elycea Almodovar, a student at Salem State in Massachusetts, told PBS.
In fall 2017, only 5 percent of faculty members in the U.S. were Latinx, compared with 20 percent of undergraduates, while 76 were white compared with 55 percent of undergraduates, according to NCES. However, according to the NCES data, from 1976 to 2017, the Latinx presence in colleges and universities increased from 4 percent to 19 percent overall, whereas the percentage of white students dropped from 84 percent to 56 percent.
So while it’s clear we’re making strides in higher education, there’s still a long way to go, extending to post-college equality when it comes to salaries since Latinas earn 54 cents for every dollar earned by white men. It’s so important to acknowledge these milestones as the Latinx population continues to grow to instill a sense of empowerment despite the challenges toward higher education the community faces.