Survey: Latinos Among Students Most Likely to Withdraw from College


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Latino and Black students have the greatest risk of withdrawing from post-secondary education programs, according to a recent survey by the Lumina-Gallup State of Higher Education.

This finding comes at a time when institutions offering bachelor’s degrees are seeing a significant drop in enrollment — a situation exacerbated by COVID-19.

Over the last decade, college enrollment has declined by 7.4%, which is the equivalent of 1.5 million students, according to Best Colleges.

The biggest decline – 900,000 students – came during the pandemic years of fall 2019 and fall 2023.

While the enrollment of underrepresented students such as Latinos and Blacks has somewhat improved, they are also considered to be more likely than their white peers to leave.

Survey Results on College Withdrawal

In fall 2023, Gallup surveyed 6,015 students currently enrolled in higher education institutions, 5,012 adults who were previously enrolled, but didn’t complete a degree, and 3,005 adults who never enrolled in higher education programs.

For the Latino and Black students who considered leaving their intellectual pursuits, they cited emotional stress, mental health, and cost as the top reasons.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the average cost to attend an in-state public college is $10,662 a year, which works out to $42,488 for four years of classes.

That cost is doubled for out-of-state students attending public colleges and 75% more for private colleges.

Financial stress is often the result of the rising cost of a 4-year degree program coupled with high loan interest rates that many struggle to keep up with after graduation.

Some find that the financial burden of higher education greatly outweighs the benefits of a degree, prompting more high school students to turn to vocational and community schools for continued education.

Associate degrees and certificates have become a popular choice among students seeking higher education after high school, especially minorities such as Latinos.

59% of Latino adults and 60% Black adults unenrolled in college have considered multiple pathways to higher education, with 24% of both ethnic groups saying a certificate could be a good option followed by an associate degree at 22% and 26%, respectfully.

When looking to sway unenrolled adults into college programs, financial aid and scholarships, confidence in degree value, and increase in their personal income are a factor.

For Latino and Black adults interested in seeking bachelor’s degrees, more than half list financial aid and scholarships as deciding factors to enroll.

Over 60% of US families relied on scholarships to pay for their child’s college tuition for the 2022-2023 school year, according to a report from Bankrate.

However, the average scholarship amount that school year differed by ethnicity.

While the average White student received $5,178 in scholarships, Black students only received an average of $3,283.

Latino students received the lowest scholarship amount at an average of $3,160.

The survey also revealed that Black and Latino adults thought that emergency aid would help with their enrollment decision at 46% and 44%, respectfully, compared to 34% of White adults.

Lastly, 55% of Black adults and 54% of Latino adults preferred greater flexibility in their work and personal schedules when it comes to choosing postsecondary education, compared to 46% of their White peers.

Latinos in Higher Education

As of 2022, 62% of US adults over the age of 25 don’t hold a bachelor’s degree.

Among Latinos, 79% do not had a bachelor’s degree, according to Pew Research Center.

Even though only 8 in 10 Latinos hold bachelor’s degrees, Latino enrollment in 4-year institutions has risen over the last two decades, jumping up from 1.5 million in 2000 to reach 3.8 million in 2019.

For the fall 2021 semester, Latinos accounted for 20.6% of college enrollment, sitting behind White students at 53.5% enrollment, according to Best Colleges.

In 2021, 23% of Latinos ages 25 to 29 had earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 14% in 2010, according to Pew Research Center.

In addition, The number of Latino or Hispanic-serving colleges and universities has risen 94% in the past 10 years, from 293 in 2010 to 569 in 2020, according to Excelencia in Education.

Despite the good news, Latinos in that age group hold the smallest percentage of bachelor’s degrees.

26% of Black Americans aged 25 to 29 have a bachelor’s degree followed by 45% of White Americans and 72% of Asian Americans.

Finances remain one of the biggest barriers to Latino higher education.

According to an October 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 71% of Latinos didn’t enroll in degree programs because they needed to work to support their families and 69% said they couldn’t afford the cost of a four-year degree.

The risk of financial hardship includes lack of reliable transportation and not wanting to take on debt.

Pew Research Center points out that Latinos are more likely than other students to take on debt and have difficulties paying back student loans.

Other reasons for not enrolling are more personal with half of Latinos stating they had no desire to pursue a four-year degree.

What’s more, 42% of Latinos said they didn’t believe they would be accepted into a four-year college, compared to 22% of their White peers.

Additionally, 37% of Latino respondents expressed not needing a four-year degree for the job or career they desired, aligning with the thoughts of 41% of Black Americans polled who said the same thing. Only 49% of White Americans share the same sentiment toward college, according to Pew Research Center.

Latino Mental Health

Along with the financial strain associated with obtaining a degree, Latinos face mental health issues that could impact their ability to complete a college program.

About 65% of Latino college students have mental issues that are likely to go on untreated due to lack of engagement with campus mental health services, according to a study from the researchers at University of California, Riverside.

“This means counselors can identify a culturally sensitive, value-driven approach to encouraging greater participation in campus mental health services, instead of focusing only on students’ ethnicity in their outreach efforts,” said study senior author Kalina Michalska.

The finding underscores the need for colleges and universities to develop culturally informed mental health assistance that supports minority students.

Over the last few years efforts have been made to erase the stigma behind mental health, spurring open conversations about resources and how to manage it.

However, mental health stigma continues to linger in Latino cultures, which value strong family ties and share a duty to assist, support, and respect family, according to the study.

These cultural ideals may have influenced a gap in seeking out mental health services.

Other barriers such as provider discrimination, structural, financial, and language barriers, may also play a role in not seeking mental health care.

“Because Western culture is more focused on independence rather than interdependence,” Michalska said, “white students may be less burdened by perceived stigma and be more likely to seek out campus mental health services than students who endorse interdependent values.”

Stress can take a huge toll on a student’s mental health.

While attending college, students must cope with academic pressures, separation from family and friends, and some have to balance other responsibilities such as work and family, according to an article published by the National Institutes of Health.

Untreated mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar can impact relationships, affect outcomes of assignments, and impede a student from graduating.

Overcoming Mental Health Issues

To overcome mental health issues, mental health awareness should start at an earlier age.

For instance, many Latinos experience declining mental health in high school.

An America’s Promise Alliance and Research for Action report found that Latino high schoolers were the most likely ethnic group to have poor or declining mental health while 60% of Latino youth reported feelings of poor or reduced health.

One catalyst of poor mental health is trauma stemming from instances of domestic violence or witnessing a triggering event.

Children who deal with these issues have to continue through school, carrying the emotional and psychological stress from these events, which can cause changes in their behavior and grades.

To address this, Salud America! helped create the free, downloadable, Handle With Care Action Pack.”

This Action Pack guides police, schools, and mental healthcare leaders on how to start a Handle with Care program, which helps police work together with schools to provide support for children who are dealing with trauma.

The program also provides virtual support for kids when schools are closed for the summer.


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