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Program exists to help boost Hispanic college graduation rates

By Ernie Brown

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A recent email from the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance caught my eye, with some particular disturbing education news for our Hispanic community.

According to the Harvard information, only 23 percent of Hispanic adults have a postsecondary degree, compared with 42 percent of all adults.

In a U.S. Census 2015 report on the Youngstown area, there are more than 6,700 people of Hispanic ethnicity living here, making that demographic the third-largest group of people in the city.

And under a U.S. Department of Education report submitted to the Census Bureau in 2015, Hispanics earned just 67 postsecondary degrees from Youngstown-area colleges. Blacks earned 227 degrees, and whites earned more than 2,000.

The Pew Research Center last summer released a report showing that over the past decade, the Hispanic high-school dropout rate has declined and college enrollment has increased, but Hispanics trail other groups in earning a bachelor’s degree.

The Pew report said: “[For] many Hispanics, economic factors remain an obstacle to college enrollment. In a 2014 National Journal poll, 66 percent of Hispanics who got a job or entered the military directly after high school cited the need to help support their family as a reason for not enrolling in college, compared with 39 percent of whites.”

The upcoming edition of Education Next, which will be available in print May 24, will have an article titled “Boosting Hispanic College Completion: Does high-school recruiting help more students graduate?”

Education Next is a journal committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform, published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, according to its website. I will give you the website address at the end of this column.

Jonathan Smith, Michael Hurwitz and Oded Gurantz are the authors and researchers for the piece. Here are some of the highlights from their work, and food for thought for our Hispanic youngsters enrolled in Youngstown City Schools to ponder.

As stated, more Hispanic adults between age 18 and 25 are enrolled in college than ever before.

“Yet the rate of Hispanic college completion has remained persistently lower than that of whites and other ethnic groups in the United States.

“Helping raise the Hispanic college graduation rate is an urgent goal, given the persistently high rate of poverty among Hispanic families, growth of the Hispanic population to account for 1 in 5 college-age Americans, and mounting concerns about racial and economic inequality,” the study says.

“One potential strategy involves helping high-school students broaden the set of colleges to which they apply and enroll. Hispanic students may be more constrained in their college-selection process than other groups, and are far more likely to attend two-year colleges, which typically have far lower graduation rates than four-year institutions.

“Just 56 percent of Hispanic college students enroll at four-year institutions, compared with 72 percent of non-Hispanic white students. Hispanics are also less likely than members of other ethnic groups to earn a bachelor’s degree: 15 percent of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 33 percent of whites, 54 percent of Asians and 22 percent of African-Americans,” the article says.

It goes on to explain one way to boost the Hispanic college graduation rate is the National Hispanic Recognition Program – NHRP – which is a College Board initiative that identifies top-performing Hispanic students based on their 11th-grade Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) scores.

NHRP was founded in 1983 by the College Board, a nonprofit that advocates for expanded access to higher education and administers college-level exams such as the SAT.

The authors write that similar in spirit to the National Merit Scholarship Program, an annual academic scholarship competition conducted by the National Merit Scholarship Corp., the NHRP was designed to recognize outstanding Hispanic high-school students and encourage them to enroll in college.

“NHRP changes two key features of their high-school experience,” the researchers write. “First, the College Board notifies students and school staff, such as school counselors, about this prestigious award. Second, with the student’s permission, the College Board shares lists of NHRP honorees with postsecondary institutions looking to recruit Hispanic students.”

Denise Dick, communications and public relations spokeswoman for the city schools, said the district does not have the NHRP program, but “we’re always open to programs and suggestions that can benefit our students.”

The authors write the NHRP “induces students to apply to and attend more elite institutions, shifting students from two-year to four-year institutions as well as to out-of-state and public flagship colleges, all areas where Hispanic attendance has lagged.”

The research of the authors is detailed and lengthy, but it basically concludes that just as higher institutions have identified and recruited black students, “college enrollment and completion can be positively influenced by higher-touch efforts on the part of colleges, such as the targeted recruitment and financial-aid offers that accompany NHRP recognition.”

Go to the website and click on the No. 2 link to read more.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at