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Report details Latino education gap in California and nationwide

April 10, 2012 | 11:42 am

Just 16% of California Latinos have college degrees compared with 39% of all California adults, an education gap for Latinos that is reflected widely across the country, according to data compiled by a nonprofit research and advocacy group.

The national and state-by-state data was compiled from various official sources and released Tuesday by Washington, D.C.-based Excelencia in Education.

A focus on education is especially timely for Latinos given the younger age of that population, said study author Deborah A. Santiago. The median age for Latinos nationwide is 27 versus 40 for the entire population. Ten states have a median Latino age of 22 or 23. In only five states are most Latinos older than 27 and no state has a median Latino age higher than 33.

The median age for Latinos is 27 in California, compared with 38 for white residents.

Latinos are “really ready to benefit from college education,” Santiago said.

The college gap is especially portentous for California, where 38% of the population is Latino as well as half of all grade-school students. About 75% of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District are Latino.

Latinos are also at least half the population of K-12 students in Texas and New Mexico, and the Latino population is surging almost everywhere.  With that growth comes a linkage with the overall economy.

“It will be impossible for the U.S. to meet its future societal and workforce needs if Latino educational attainment is not substantially improved,” said Dennis Jones, president of the Colorado-based National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. “If Latinos are not part of the success story then the U.S. itself does not have a success story.”

In 2011, 21% of Latinos had an associate degree or higher, compared with 57% of Asians, 44% of whites and 30% of blacks.

By some measures, graduation rates are declining for Latinos and the gap between Latinos and other groups is widening.

“Our ability to educate Latino students” is “a failed enterprise,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

But the researchers also said that a variety of programs nationwide are successfully helping Latinos, including some in California. The challenge, they said, would be bringing such efforts to scale.

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-- Howard Blume

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