Number of Latinas in Higher Education Continues to Grow


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As the US Latino population continues to grow, so does the representation of Latinas.

Today, the Latina population has grown at a faster rate than Latino men, with 24% of Latinas making up the total population (compared to a 22% growth for Latino men).

With this increase also comes more Latinas in higher education.

Latinas have experienced a 52% rise in college degree attainment at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) from 2015 to 2020, according to a new report from Excelencia in Education.

In 2020, Latinas earned over 300,000 degrees at HSIs (growth of 52%) compared to 188,000 degrees earned by Latino men at HSIs (growth of 44%).

Let’s dive into the growth and numbers of Latinas in higher education.

Latina College Enrollment & HSIs

As of Fall 2020, almost half (48%) of women enrolled in HSIs are Latina.

Latinas also makeup a majority (60%) of the overall Latino population enrolled at HSIs.

“Aside from the benefits of additional funding, having an HSI designation helps to foster an inclusive culture on campus—one that supports marginalized students from start to finish,” according to an article from University of Colorado Denver.

Currently, there are 569 HSIs across 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, according to Degree Choices.

“A large majority of these institutions are located in California, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Nearly 70% of all Latino students in higher education in the U.S. attend an HSI,” reported Degree Choices.

Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutes (eHSIs) are defined as “institutions with an undergraduate FTE Hispanic enrollment between 15 and 24 percent” by Excelencia in Education.

For eHSIs, Latinas consist of 1 in 5 (21%) of all women enrolled. Of all Latino students enrolled at eHSIs, Latinas represent 59% of full-time and 62% of part-time students.

“HSIs are exemplary institutions for educating and graduating a diverse student body. Many are transforming in efforts to better serve their Latino students,” according to Degree Choices.

Latina Education Attainment

While enrollment is growing, 53% of Latina adults (25 and older) had earned a high school diploma (27%) or less (26%) as their highest educational attainment as of 2020.

Several barriers are preventing Latinas from pursuing higher education.

Speaking English as a second language, belonging to a low socio-economic group, lack of mentorship, and the hardships of being a first-generation college student are some of the top barriers, according to the Independent Education Consultation Association (IECA).

“The result is that first-generation Latino college students often cannot rely on their parents or other family members to assist with the selection/admission process or provide adequate support during college,” according to IECA.

Despite these challenges, many Latinas are still pursuing degrees.

Over 70% of Latinas earned an associate’s (39%) or a bachelor’s (33%) degree at HSIs.

19% of Latinas also earned a certificate, and 9% earned a graduate degree at HSIs, although

only 8% earned a master’s degree and 1% earned a doctoral degree.

There were also differences in Latinas enrolled in public HSIs and those enrolled in private HSIs.

Most Latinas earning degrees at HSIs did so at a public HSI at the undergraduate level.

“About 90% of Latinas that earned their degrees at an HSI did so at a public four-year (50%) or at a public two-year (40%) HIS,” according to Excelencia in Education.

However, Latinas are more likely to earn a graduate degree at a private HSI than at a public HIS, with 30% earning a graduate degree, compared to 6% of Latinas who earned a graduate degree at public HSIs.

Latina Contributions to Workforce

Along with education, the number of Latinas in the workforce also continues to rise.

Latinas account for 16% of the female labor force, the second-largest racial/ethnic group of women workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That percentage is also expected to increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that Hispanic Americans will account for 78% of new workers between 2020 and 2030.

“Hispanic women represent a critical and growing segment of the U.S. labor market and economy. The increasing labor market participation of Latinas is helping support the ongoing economic recovery and the resilience of the American workforce,” according to a 2022 report from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC).

Despite these strides in education and the workforce, there is still a big challenge that Latinas must face – the wage gap.

For every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white man, a Latina earns just 57 cents, the U.S. Department of Labor blog reports.

“Hispanic women with bachelor’s degrees have median weekly earnings less than those of white men with some college or an associate degree,” according to the blog.

What Can We Do to Improve Latina Education and Wages?

Anjelica Cazares is bringing awareness and advocating for change against the injustices of the Latina pay gap.

Through her Latina Equal Pay Dinner, in December of 2022, Cazares brought Latina professionals together and created important conversations about  professional challenges and inequities that Latinas face and how they contribute to the unequal pay issue.

“The wage gap is affecting Latinas as a whole. We really need to create sustainable change,” Cazares said.

Read more about Cazares and her advocacy along with other Salud Heroes striving to make a difference and advocating for change!

You can also download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card!

The report card auto-generates Latino-focused local data with interactive maps and comparative gauges, which can help you visualize and explore inequities in housing, transit, poverty, health care, food, and education.

You will see how your county stacks up in these health equity issues — now including social vulnerability and COVID-19 — compared to your state and the nation.

Then you can share the Report Card with your local leaders to advocate for healthy change!


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