Census: More Hispanics Graduating High School, Attending 2-Year Colleges

A higher percentage of young Hispanic adults is finishing high school, and the number attending a two-year college has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to new Census data.

The percentage of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in high school and don’t have an equivalent degree was 22 percent in 2008, down from 34 percent in 1998.

Meanwhile, the number attending a 2-year college increased 85 percent, from 540,000 in 2000 to 1 million in 2008.

“It’s an amazing level of growth,” said Kurt Bauman, the chief of the Census Bureau’s education branch.

Researchers said the numbers on high school completion were the result of several factors, including targeted efforts to reduce the number of Latino students dropping out, as well as an increasing percentage born and attending all their schooling in the United States.

But several experts also expressed concern that high numbers are choosing two-year colleges, where students tend to have lower completion rates and frequently do not go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Jose Cruz, vice president for higher education policy and practice with the Education Trust, pointed to studies that show a majority of Latino students aspire to earn a bachelor’s degree, but noted they are overrepresented in 2-year institutions. He attributed the gap to issues of K-12 preparation, insufficient counseling and the overwhelming financial contribution low-income families must make in order to attend a 4-year institution.

Frank Alvarez, president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, himself a community college graduate, said that many students fail to finish an associate degree because they find themselves inadequately prepared and lacking guidance once they make their way into the system.

“If you’re going to community college because it’s less costly, or because it’s the option that’s closest to you, there’s nothing wrong with that, but please continue to a four-year school,” Alvarez said.

The Census report contained a number of other education indicators, including data on early education and demographics. The number of students enrolled in kindergarten has increased from 2.9 million in 1978 to 4 million in 2008. Higher numbers are also going to full-day instead of part-day programs.

Among nursery school students, Hispanic students made up 18 percent, an increase of 5 percent from 1998.

Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia in Education, said the findings on high school completion should be celebrated, though she cautioned there was still significant work to be done targeting dropout factories and increasing college readiness.

“What this does is create an opportunity to think about the population even more clearly as a college-going community, as a community that does have educational success,” Santiago said.

Via Community College Week.

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Greening Community Colleges: An Environmental Path to Improving Educational Outcomes

The emerging and expanding green economy has the potential to create not just jobs, but career opportunities across the United States as green manufacturing, green products, and green services fuel demand for workers at all skill levels. Community colleges are leading the way in defining and addressing these opportunities. They are: developing education and training programs in expanding fields from solar energy to green construction; enhancing existing green-connected programs and creating new training programs for green jobs; and developing educational pathways that lead to the Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees that are essential for continued advancement in these emerging careers.

In addition, many community colleges are taking steps to raise environmental awareness within the communities they serve. They are greening their own campuses and working on local environmental remediation. Some colleges are integrating their on-campus sustainability efforts into academic programs so that installing solar cells or creating a composting system for campus waste becomes an instructional tool. Often, they undertake this work through innovative partnerships that bring together environmental groups, local employers, and community-based organizations.

This brief highlights the approaches of three community colleges to “greening” their operations, curricula, and communities, while simultaneously addressing local and regional employment and environmental needs.

Download the report here.

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From GED to College Degree

Less than 5 percent of GED holders ever earn a postsecondary degree. In response, innovative GED programs have begun creating clear, effective pathways to postsecondary education, preparing their students for college and careers.

This white paper by John Garvey and JFF’s Terry Grobe shares lessons from “best in class” GED to College programs that show early, positive results in preparing youth for college and helping them persist once there. It also explores key issues connected to the growth of this programming within the field and lays out a framework for leaders and program staff looking to transform short-term GED programs into more intensive, college-connected designs.

Download the report here.

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Yesterday’s Nontraditional Student is Today’s Traditional Student

Today’s typical college student is no longer an 18-year-old recent high-school graduate who enrolls full-time and has limited work and family obligations.  Students today are 
older, more diverse and have more work and family obligations to balance.

To view table showing what a "traditional" student looks like, click here.
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The Cost of Learning: How Public Benefits Create Pathways to Education

Many people have an idyllic image of college as a time of freedom and exploration, with few responsibilities. Yet more and more students, especially in community colleges, are older, with adult responsibilities, and adult concerns. Many of them are low-income.

For these students, public benefits can be an important bridge to college success, especially among older, non-traditional students with families. Unfortunately, such students often don’t know where to look. Educating students about the help that is available is an investment in their futures that will pay dividends for society.

In search of an affordable path to postsecondary and economic success, 7.1 million students attend community colleges each year. But while tuition costs are significantly lower than those at four-year public institutions, other costs of attending community college – including basic living expenses, transportation, and textbooks – are still substantial. In 2010-11, a year at a community college was estimated to cost $14,637, compared to $20,339 for the average undergraduate at a public, four-year university.

For students who are supporting families, the cost is even higher, as housing, food, and child care costs add to the total. Once a rarity, these students are becoming increasingly common. In 2009, 42.1 percent of students were over 24, and 23 percent were parents.

Financial aid can help to cover costs, but community college students receive comparatively little financial support, and their overall burden is high. In addition, financial aid policies often are written with younger students in mind, some of whom can depend on their own parents for economic support. After accounting for available financial aid, a greater share of community college students still have unmet need (80 percent) than did public four-year college students (54 percent). The average full-time community college student is projected to have more than $6,000 in unmet need in 2010-2011.

Read more.

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