Historic Number of Latinx in California Graduating High School and Going to College but State’s Colleges and Universities Continue to Produce Too Few Latinx College Grads, Threatening Future Economic Stability Report Finds

As California’s biggest, and growing racial/ethnic group, the success of Latinx students is critical to meeting future workforce demands

Los Angeles, CA – Today, the Campaign for College Opportunity released the 2018 “State of Higher Education for Latinx in California” report, which documents some of the progress California has made in providing college opportunity to its Latinx students, as well as the gaps in college attainment, access and completion allowed to persist by the state’s colleges and universities. As the largest – and growing- student population in the state, if California fails to close the college attainment gap between Latinx and White students there will be grave consequences for the state’s economic standing as the fifth largest economy in the world.

Over 50% of California’s K-12 students are Latinx and a record number of Latinx students are graduating from high school, passing the courses required for university admission and going to college. In fact, 1.3 million Latinx students are enrolled in college today which is over half a million more Latinx college students compared to the year 2000. College graduation rates are also on the rise and while these are all promising trends, there is also troubling news.

Despite representing 40% of California’s total population, Latinx still have the lowest proportion of college degree earners and the highest proportion of people who have not graduated from high school. High schools graduate Latinx students at a lower percentage and do not provide equitable access to the classes needed for college admission to Latinx students compared to other races. And, colleges and universities have allowed the gap in completion between Latinx and White students to rise instead of close.

The good news for California:

  • California is graduating more Latinx students from high school. 86% of Latinx 19 year-olds have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Latinx transfer to California State University (CSU) campuses grew 10 percentage points between Fall 2010 (57%) and Fall 2016 (67%), thanks to the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT).
  • Time to degree has decreased for Latinx students at University of California (UC) campuses. Only 38 percent of Latinx who entered the UC in fall of 2000 graduated within four years compared to 49% of the class who entered in 2010 – an 11 percent point improvement.
  • The gap between White students’ and Latinx students’ completion rates at California Community Colleges and graduation rates for transfer students within four years of enrolling at CSU has narrowed over time.

The bad news:

  • Only 18% of Latinx adults have a college degree compared to 52% of Whites.
  • The gap in bachelor’s degree attainment between Latinx and Whites increased from 30 to 31 percentage points in the last decade.
  • California community colleges fail to support more than one half of Latinx students to attain a credential or transfer. Only two percent of Latinx transfer in two years, 31 percent in six years.
  • Differences in six-year graduation rates between White and Latinx students have increased at CSU and UC.
  • Faculty, Academic Senate bodies, college leadership, and governance are not reflective of the Latinx population or student body.

“The future of California depends on the educational success of our Latinx population.  As the largest demographic group in California and a vital contributor to our state economy, culture, and identity, our state and college leaders need to ensure we improve college opportunity and success and eliminate all barriers that keep Latinx students’ from accessing and graduating from college,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. “Our appreciation of our states diversity and our passion for equality must be more than a good soundbite for policymakers and campus leaders.  Unless we set a clear plan forward to close racial inequality in education and ensure that Latinx students are able to succeed in our colleges and universities, we face a dim economic future.”

When asked about key ways college leaders can act to improve Latinx student success, Sonya Christian, president of Bakersfield College and member of the Campaign for College Opportunity Board of Directors said, “The State of Higher Education for Latinx in California, details the work ahead.  We remove barriers by simplifying complicated transfer pathways as we expand and clarify Associate Degrees for Transfer. We sharpen our focus on equity and our completion priorities as we systematically implement the Student Success Funding Formula.  Many of our institutions of higher education in California are federally designated as Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). An equity focus on increasing the completion of Latinx students will significantly increase the overall performance of HSI institutions, and will increase baccalaureate attainment for the state of California as a whole.”

The report details these recommendations and more for California’s elected and college leaders to ensure Latinx students are set up for college success including:

  • Set a specific college attainment goal for Latinx students with the intention of closing persistent preparation, access, and completion gaps.
  • Continue to increase capacity at the CSU and UC institutions to serve more Latinx students.
  • Place more students directly into college level courses at community colleges and provide adequate supports for their success.
  • Fix transfer and expand the number of students on Associate Degree for Transfer pathways at CSU and UC institutions.
  • Ensure California community colleges improve completion rates through strong implementation of the Student Success Funding Formula.
  • Expand access to financial aid and prioritize aid for low-income families.
  • Increase the proportion of Latinx faculty, college and university leaders, and members of governing boards.
  • Collect and make available data on Latinx students, faculty, and leaders to hold institutions accountable, track progress toward our goals, and help identify roadblocks for students.


To view the full 2018 State of Higher Education for Latinx in California report, please click here.