Latinos still underrepresented

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Latinos continue to be underrepresented at public colleges and universities, especially among community colleges, according to a new report from The Education Trust (Ed Trust).

At a time when the Latino population in the U.S. continues to grow rapidly, Latinos are neither getting their “fair share” of seats nor degrees from public colleges and universities in almost every state when compared to white students, the report says.

Latino students are underrepresented at community and technical colleges in 40 of the 44 states that Ed Trust examined. At public four-year institutions, Latino enrollment didn’t sync with the state’s proportion of Latino residents in 33 of 44 states. In terms of earning associate and bachelor’s degrees, Latinos were underrepresented in all 44 states.

Overall for undergraduate representation of Latinos at community and technical colleges, the average grade Ed Trust gave to states was a “C-,” with an “F” for the share of associate degrees earned by Latino students relative to Latino populations.

State grades

Ed Trust developed a metric to provide a grade for each state (See chart below). Four states — Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island — received the highest grades of “A-” for their enrollment of Latino students in community and technical colleges compared to the state’s share of Latino residents.

“Their performance is worth noting because their populations are approximately 20 percent Latino,” the report says.

California, Florida and Texas — which have large populations of Latinos — scored above average, with Florida and Texas receiving a “B+.”

Five states — Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee — received an “F.” The report cites Georgia in particular, noting that Latino residents comprise 13.4 percent of the state population, but Latinos make up only 7.5 percent of public two-year college students. The report also provides some context for Alaska’s grade, noting that the state has a small community and technical college system with only 1,400 students.

Degrees earned

Twenty-five states received an “F” for their Latino representation among associate-degree earners, with no state receiving an “A.” However, several states with substantial Latino populations are in the top 10 for Latino representation among associate-degree earners — California, Florida, New Mexico, New York and Texas. Florida and Texas received a “B-,” with New Mexico receiving a “C+,” California a “C” and New York a “C-.”

Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and New Jersey — all states where Latinos comprise at least a quarter of each state’s population — scored “D+” to “D-,” with Colorado getting an “F.”

From the lowest-performing states, the report cites Wyoming, where 6.9 percent of associate degrees are awarded to Latino students. Latinos comprise 14.2 percent of Wyoming’s residents.

Ways to improve

Ed Trust recommends four ways that states can ramp up efforts to reduce these disparities:

  • Set race and ethnicity targets in statewide college degree-attainment goals.
  • Reward public colleges and universities for enrolling and graduating students of color.
  • Ensure residents with some college but no degree are eligible for need-based aid programs.
  • Invest in community college programs that help residents earn high school equivalence credentials and get on a pathway to higher education.


Source: The Education Trust, “Broken Mirrors II: Latino Student Representation at Public State Colleges and Universities,” September 2019.


About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.