President Obama’s Community College Plan Could Dramatically Benefit Hispanic Communities

February 5, 2015 by No Comments

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President Barack Obama is proposing to offer community college students free tuition, a move that could have significant impact on Hispanic communities.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, more Hispanics are already enrolled in college than ever before, nearly half of whom (46%) attend public two-year schools — the highest share of any race or ethnicity — which means free community college tuition would most benefit them.

What’s more, Hispanics are making up an increasingly larger share of the country’s almost seven million community college students. In 2013, almost one quarter (22%) of all enrolled public two-year college students were Hispanic, a dramatic increase from 14% in 2000.

Looking forward, free tuition could open up many doors for Hispanic students as well, as many struggle to afford higher education. About half of dependent Hispanics enrolled in two- or four-year colleges come from families whose incomes are below $40,000. According to a 2014 National Journal poll, two-thirds (66%) of Hispanics who entered the workforce or the military immediately after graduating high school did so because they had to support their families.

The proposal could also specifically benefit Hispanic students because community colleges have open enrollment, which means students need only to earn their high school diploma to gain admission. Hispanics, on average, have lower levels of academic achievements than white students. About 77% of Latinos score below the College Board’s college-ready benchmark of 1,550 points out of 2,400 on the SAT test.

At the same time, Hispanic high school dropout rates have sunk in recent years, while college enrollment rates amongst 18- to 24-year-old Hispanic high school graduates have been on the rise.

If the President Obama’s proposal succeeds, it will prove to be a huge boon to Hispanic communities — and one which would not go unused. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 National Survey of Latinos, 49% of Latino adults consider education an extremely important issue for them personally — more important in fact than jobs and the economy and even immigration.

The question now is not whether or not it would help, but whether or not it will pass.

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