Latino College Enrollment Was Surging. Then COVID-19 Happened.


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By Araceli Cruz

November 25, 2020

A new study shows 5.4% of Latino undergraduate college students dropped out because of the COVID-19 crisis.

For several years, Latinos were increasingly enrolling in college. This year, however, because of COVID-19, some Latinos have no choice but to drop out. A new study shows that several factors, including the economic crisis, family responsibilities, and remote learning, played a role in the dropout rate. 

From 2000 to 2018, the number of Latino college students rose from 1.4 million to 3.4 million. The percentage of Latinos aged 25-29 with at least an associate’s degree increased from 15% to 31% from 2000 to 2019.

On Nov. 12, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released preliminary findings of undergraduate and graduate college enrollment. Overall, fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment was down 4.4%, while graduate enrollment increased by 2.9%. 

RELATED: Rethinking Your College Plans? Against All Odds Latino Students Must Stay The Course.

Among undergraduate students, Native American students continue to see the steepest decline overall (-9.6%), followed by Black students (-7.5%), white students (-6.6%), Latino students (-5.4%), and Asian students (-3.1%). 

The study shows that Latinos’ previous upward trend is now reversed, mainly due to the drop in community college enrollment this fall.

“The latest data update shows community colleges and freshmen continuing to show the steepest drops in enrollment, while the declines among undergraduates generally have deepened,” Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, said in a statement.

RELATED: What Does the College Choice for Latino Families Look Like in a Pandemic World?

According to a recent census survey, 16 million people in the United States have canceled plans to go to college. One of the reasons they canceled their college plans was their concern about contracting coronavirus on campus. Others said they had to care for someone with COVID-19. More than 10 million Americans said they dropped out because they couldn’t afford to pay for school due to the COVID economic crisis. Students from families that earn less than $75,000 a year are more than twice as likely to have canceled college plans this semester.

“My parents saw no point to paying for online classes,” 18-year-old Dario Magana-Williams told the The Washington Post in September. “They didn’t think it was worth the tuition and were more comfortable with me staying home. I really wanted the independence, but this is the reality of things.”



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