May 9, 2013— -- It turns out that nearly seven in 10 Hispanic high school graduates from the class of 2012 enrolled in college in the fall, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census data. That's two percentage points higher than the rate among whites, and six percentage points higher than the rate among blacks.
The record Latino enrollment levels signal a major increase from just a dozen years ago. In 2000, fewer than half of all Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college the following fall.
And while Hispanic students are still more likely than whites to drop out of high school in the first place, Latino high school dropout rates have declined by about half since 2000. Just 14 percent of Latinos between the ages of 16 and 24 were high school dropouts in 2011, compared to 28 percent in 2000.
Hispanic high school graduation rates have steadily increased along with college enrollment figures for a couple of reasons.
One big one is the recession. Hispanic college enrollment accelerated in 2008 as it became more difficult to find jobs straight out of high school.
So, as the economy improves can we expect Latino college enrollment rates to decline?
Not necessarily. Pew points out that another explanation for the positive trend could be the importance Latino families place on a college education. A 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey found that 88 percent of Latinos age 16 and older thought a college degree is necessary to get ahead in life. A separate Pew survey of all Americans 16 and up found that just 74 percent said the same.
There is still work to be done, though. Hispanics are less likely to enroll in four-year colleges, attend selective schools, study full-time and graduate with a bachelors degree.
But findings by a Stanford professor indicates that there are ways to increase those figures. Right now, top colleges are doing a bad job of connecting with high-achieving poor students, even though many offer scholarships that would make those schools every bit as affordable as local, public schools, which are less likely to offer career advice and alumni networks.
The study found, however, that basic outreach to students and their families -- tailored, bilingual mailers explaining that scholarships exist, for instance -- can have a real impact on whether those kids apply to top schools.