Minorities' enrollment in college is said to lag 47.8% of Hispanic boys graduate from high school

January 18, 1993|By New York Times News Service

Black and Hispanic students are still far less likely to attend college than white students, according to a report released today by the American Council on Education.

The 11th Annual Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education swings from weak optimism to deep gloom as it outlines the past year as well as the 1980s. The report is considered one of the most comprehensive and telling portraits of a crucial segment of education.

The report shows that minority students are far less likely to finish high school than white students. This is especially true for Hispanic students. Last year, the high school completion rate for Hispanic boys dropped to its lowest level, 47.8 percent, since such figures were first collected in 1972. The graduation rate for Hispanic girls increased slightly.

On the positive side, minority students are having somewhat greater success than in previous years in professional and graduate schools; their numbers increased through the 1980s at a rate greater than that for whites.

It is the undergraduate figures that are worrisome to educators. Robert H. Atwell, the president of the not-for-profit Washington organization that represents most colleges and universities, said state cutbacks of university budgets and the reductions in federal financial aid were taking a disproportionate toll on minority students, who may most need the chance that higher education represents.

While 34 percent of all whites 18 to 24 were enrolled in college in 1991, just 24 percent of blacks and 18 percent of Hispanic men and women were enrolled.

Mr. Atwell said he was particularly troubled by the increasing problem of minority students who entered college but never got their degrees. While black student enrollment has been increasing, the number of degrees awarded to black graduates has dropped to the level of the mid 1970s.

"We've really got to shine a laser beam on the problem of retention," Mr. Atwell said. "It's one thing to get people into these institutions, but it's another thing to keep them in."

Mr. Atwell said that the problem could worsen if the counseling and academic support services that have helped minority students succeed are lopped off when university budgets need to be cut.

"These services are most politically vulnerable," Mr. Atwell said, "because there's no constituency for them."

One of the report's most disturbing findings is that the high school completion rate of Hispanic youths dropped again last year. The rate has declined 10 percentage points since 1985.

Other findings of the American Council on Education's annual report include these:

* The number of minority students enrolled at two-year colleges, which are less expensive and easier to get into than most four-year colleges, rose by 13.4 percent in 1991, the last year studied. Minority enrollment at the four-year institutions rose 5.9 percent.

* The number of minority students enrolled in professional schools increased by 80.7 percent from 1980 to 1990, while minority enrollment in graduate school grew by 52 percent in the same period.

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