Share of Hispanic College Students Has Nearly Doubled Since 2005


Nearly one in five college students ages 18-24 identifies as being of Hispanic or Latino origin, according to a new analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau — up from one in 10 students in 2005.

The rise in the share of Hispanic and Latino/a students correlates with a rapidly growing number of Hispanic-serving institutions, a federal designation that can be accompanied by money for a college or university if at least 25 percent of its student body identifies as Hispanic or Latino/a. The number of HSIs has tripled since the 1990s, from 189 institutions in 1994 to 569 in 2019, according to an analysis by The Chronicle. However, federal dollars specifically allocated for HSIs have not nearly kept pace with the growing crop of qualifying institutions. The Center for American Progress calculated that the total funding available for HSIs represented just $87 per Latino/a student enrolled, a rate far lower than the funding for targeted students, per-pupil, at almost all other minority-serving institutions, like Native students at tribally controlled colleges and universities ($3,197) and Black students at historically Black colleges and universities ($1,642).

The Hispanic population in the United States has seen similar growth across the decades. Between 1980 and 2021, the number of Hispanic people in the U.S. more than quadrupled, from 14.6 million to 62.1 million. Over the same period, the Hispanic share of the total U.S. population rose from 6.2 percent to 18.7 percent.

And across all Hispanic-origin groups, the rate of college attendance among 18- to 24-year-olds increased anywhere between 2 and 12 percentage points. Per Census guidelines, origin refers to a person’s heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth, or that of their parents or ancestors before their arrival in the U.S.

One in five young adults of Mexican origin in 2005 attended college. By 2021, that ratio had narrowed to one in three. Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Central American populations also experienced enrollment increases of 7.5 percentage points or higher. And though students with origins in Cuba and South America did not post such rapid gains, those two groups still maintained the first- and second-place spots among Hispanic-origin groups in terms of rate of college attendance: 45.6 percent of young Cubans attended college in 2021; for students of South American origin, the rate of attendance increased to 47 percent. Similarly, all origin groups saw significant improvement in terms of bachelor-degree attainment across the 16-year period analyzed by Census Bureau researchers.

However, according to Census Bureau data, the number of Hispanic students enrolled in college fell slightly between 2019 and 2021 — a reversal of decades-long growth. The research echoes similar findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.


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