In 2009, young Latinos told us that education is a crucial pathway to success (Tr3s Loteria Study) – and now, they are proving their dedication to this sentiment and becoming more educated than ever. Released last month, just before another school year began, a new Pew Hispanic Center study reported that the numbers of Hispanics enrolled in public schools have reached new highs and that Latinos are entering college in record numbers.
Here are some key findings from the report:

Latinos represent a larger share of public school students than ever.

Because the Hispanic population skews young, they represent a larger share of students in the younger grades – and as they get older, they’ll account for a larger share of the overall student population. In 2011, for the first time, 25% of public elementary school students were Hispanic – a milestone achieved among public kindergarten students in 2007 and public nursery school students in 2006. Hispanics also comprised 21% of public high school students in 2011. Among pre-K through 12th grade public school students in total, Hispanics were 24% of the population – up from 20% in 2005 and 17% in 2000. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2036, Latinos will represent a third of U.S. children ages 3 to 17, so these shares are certain to grow in the coming years.

Today, there is a record number of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics enrolled in college.

In 2011, there were 2.1 million Latino students ages 18-24 enrolled in college – up 15% from 2010. This was the second consecutive year of major year-to-year growth, following a 24% increase from 2009 to 2010. Last year, Hispanics became the largest minority group on college campuses in general – and this year, for the first time, they’re the largest minority at four-year colleges and universities specifically (13% share). They also reached a new milestone at two-year colleges, making up a quarter of 18- to 24-year-old students at these institutions. Since 1972, the Latino share of college students ages 18-24 has grown steadily, from 2.9% to 16.5%. From 2006 to 2011 alone, that share increased nearly 50% (from 11% to 16.5%).

Latino college enrollment is up largely because of two factors: the population is growing and more students are graduating high school.

Hispanic population growth is a source of increases in both public school and college enrollment. The number of total college-aged Hispanics (18-24) is five times larger than in 1972 – from 1972 to 2011, it grew from 1.3 million to 6.0 million. High school completion is also at a high point, making more Latinos eligible for college than ever before. In 2011, 76% of Hispanics 18-24 had a high school diploma or GED, up from 73% in 2010. Additionally, nearly half (46%) of Latinos who have completed high school are enrolled in 2- or 4-year colleges – a record share.

Hispanics are graduating from college in record numbers.

The number of Hispanics graduating with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is seven times larger today than in the late 70s – a faster growth rate than other groups. Because of this, not only is there is a higher number of Latino college graduates, Latinos represent a larger share of all college degree recipients. They represented a record 8.5% of all bachelor’s recipients in 2010 (up from 8.1% in 2009) and 13.2% of associate’s degree recipients. In 2010, the number of Hispanics being awarded college degrees hit an all-time high: 112,000 received associate’s degrees and 140,000 attained bachelor’s degrees.

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