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Wide Gap Exists Between Educational Aspirations and Preparation for Hispanic Students

June 12 2014

Although 83 percent of Hispanic students aspire to earn a postsecondary degree, just under a fourth are academically prepared to reach that goal, according to a new report released today by ACT and Excelencia in Education.

The joint report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013: Hispanic Students, shows that 24 percent of ACT-tested Hispanic 2013 high school graduates in the United States met at least three of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, which is lower than the 39 percent of all ACT-tested 2013 graduates who did so. Similarly, almost half—46 percent—of Hispanic students did not meet any of the four benchmarks, compared to 31 percent of all students.

These findings are particularly timely and relevant, as the number of Hispanics in the U.S. has grown dramatically in the past few years.

  • The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Hispanics represented 17 percent (53 million) of the U.S. population in 2012 and are projected to represent 31 percent of the population by 2060.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 25 percent of all children under the age of five are Hispanic, and 23 percent of students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in public schools are Hispanic.
  • This increased representation is reflected in ACT test takers as well. Since 2009, the number of Hispanic students taking the ACT has nearly doubled, increasing by approximately 126,000 students.

“The data show that Hispanics must earn 5.5 million more degrees by 2020 for America to regain world leadership in college degree attainment,” said Deborah Santiago, Excelencia in Education’s COO and vice president for policy. “This report makes it clear that our education system must match the high aspirations Hispanic families have for their children with high quality K–12 programs that ensure career and college readiness.”

The comparatively lower rates of readiness are particularly concerning because Hispanic graduates take the ACT-recommended core curriculum at rates similar to that of all graduates (72 percent vs. 74 percent, respectively). The ACT-recommended core curriculum is defined as four years of English and three years each of mathematics, social studies, and science. ACT data suggest students who take this core curriculum are more likely to be ready for college coursework than those who do not.

“Through their course selection, most Hispanic students are following the recommended path to be prepared for postsecondary education,” said Scott Montgomery, ACT vice president of policy, advocacy and government relations. “But the gap between the classes they take and their actual preparation levels is still too wide. We urgently need to better understand the reasons behind this disconnect and work to implement additional strategies to help Hispanic students better prepare for life after high school.”

Compared to 71 percent of all students, only 62 percent of Hispanic graduates immediately enroll in some form of postsecondary education after high school. Furthermore, only 73 percent of Hispanic students who complete their first year of postsecondary education persist into the second year. Persistence into the second year of postsecondary enrollment is highly related to completing a 2-year or 4-year degree.

The ACT and Excelencia in Education report uses data from approximately 1.8 million ACT-tested high school graduates in the U.S. Of those, 259,741 (14 percent) identified themselves as being of Hispanic race/ethnicity. During ACT registration, students are asked to provide information about race/ethnicity, high school course-taking and postsecondary aspirations.

The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013: Hispanic Students report can be viewed and downloaded for free at: http://www.act.org/newsroom/data/2013/states/hispanic.html.