UnidosUS Unveils New Report on The Latino Experience in Higher Education

Washington, DC— Today, UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) released a new report—“It Made the Sacrifices Worth It”: The Latino Experience in Higher Education—during a live panel discussion of the findings. UnidosUS policy experts and researchers from the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill highlighted key insights from the report, which relied on in-depth interviews with a diverse set of thirty Latino college graduates from six U.S. cities. The new report uses a Latino lens to explore college access and affordability, as well as the implications of student debt on wealth-building.

According to the report, White and Latino high-school graduates enroll in postsecondary programs at similar rates, but Latinos are less likely to attend four-year colleges, where graduation rates are higher and are increasingly likely to take on student loans. More than 30 percent of Latino student borrowers leave school with debt and no degree, which has wide-ranging implications, including on students’ well-being and financial security.

“We’re encouraged that more Latinos are going to college than ever before but are troubled to see that rising college costs and wealth inequality are making the path to a four-year degree a steeper climb,” said Samantha Vargas Poppe, Associate Director of UnidosUS’s Policy Analysis Center. “While many of our students succeed, too many have to take on immense financial risk for a shot at the American dream,” she continued.

The authors and panelists warned of the dire consequences not just for Latinos—whose earnings, even with a bachelor’s degree, lag behind those of their White counterparts—but for the country as a whole if these issues aren’t addressed. By 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require a college degree and one in five undergraduates will be Latino, according to estimates by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) respectively. By 2050, the BLS predicts, Latinos will comprise 30 percent of the nation’s workforce.

“More must be done to ensure a college education remains a good bet for Latino students and families and the economy as a whole,” said Julia Barnard, a researcher at the Center for Community Capital at UNC-Chapel Hill and a co-author of the report. “It’s time to better invest in and support our students, for their sake and ours.”