A surge in college enrollment

By Rhonda Reynolds

With the economy still tight, recent college graduates are earning less money than college grads in previous years — as much as $10,000 less. But despite lower post-undergraduate salaries, education remains paramount to today’s high school students. In fact, college enrollment among minorities is on the upswing.

The American Council on Education released its 20th annual Minorities in Higher Education Annual Status Report, which revealed that minority college enrollment has surged 122% over the last two decades. According to the report, the high school completion rate for African Americans has increased from 68% to 76%, while the rate for Hispanics rose more slowly — from 55% to 59%. College participation rates increased 14% for whites, 11% for African Americans, and 5% for Hispanics. Moreover, African American women remain much more likely than their male counterparts to pursue higher learning — 42% compared to 37%. Overall, the college enrollment rate for African Americans has risen 56% in 20 years. The college graduation rate for African Americans in 2001 was 41%, up 8% from 1991. Historically Black Colleges and Universities accounted for more than 20% of all bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans.

The report also showed that the number of minorities who obtain professional degrees and doctorates has risen substantially over the past 20 years, with many pursuing advanced degrees in education and the social sciences.

“The good news is that, overall, more students of color are enrolling in [institutions of] higher education, showing the impact of focus and hard work over the past 20 years,” says Marc Sapterstein, former president of the GE Foundation, which financed the report. “The bad news is that there are still major disparities in the participation rates. ACE President David Ward agrees that additional work is necessary, despite the substantial gains: “We must re-double our efforts to improve the rates at which students of color enroll in post-secondary institutions if minorities underrepresented in higher education are to achieve parity with their white counterparts.”

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