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Let’s take a step back and reflect on some of the larger trends and statistics around high school and college graduation rates.

Data show that a postsecondary degree is beneficial for positive life outcomes1

  • On average, adults who hold a bachelor’s degree earn 25% more than those with only an associate’s degree, and 60% more than those with no college degree;
  • Students who go on to a two-year or four-year college are less likely to be unemployed and more satisfied with their work; and
  • Higher levels of education coincide with lower levels of participation in public assistance programs.

Many young people are attending postsecondary institutions2

  • In the fall of 2015, some 20.2 million students were expected to attend American colleges and universities; and
  • In the fall of 2015, about 7 million students were expected to attend two-year institutions and 13.2 million were expected to attend four-year institutions.

Increasing numbers of Black and Hispanic students are attending college

  • Between 2000 and 2013, the percentage of college students who were Black rose from 11.7 to 14.7%, and the percentage of students who were Hispanic rose from 9.9 to 15.8%3 ; and
  • The percentage of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college increased from 23.6% in 2000 to 37.5% in 2013.4

Inequalities, however, still exist, particularly for Latinas (women of Hispanic heritage)

  • Although Latinas are going to college in record numbers, they are significantly less likely to actually complete a degree compared to all other major racial/ethnic groups: in 2013, almost 19% of Latinas between 25 and 29 years of age had completed a degree compared to 23% of African American women, 44% of white women, and 64% of Asian women5 ;
  • Among women who went to college, only 39% of Latinas went first to four-year colleges, compared to 50% of Black, 60 percent of White, and 67% of Asian women; thus, most college-bound Latinas are attending two-year institutions6 ;
  • The phenomena of undermatching – wherein students attend colleges that are too easy for them – is disproportionately prevalent among low-income and first-generation students and is associated with a lower likelihood of college graduation and longer time to degree7 ; and
  • 74% of Latino young adults ages 16 to 25 who cut their education short during or right after high school say they did so because they had to support their family.8

A number of policies shape and support decisions about college

  • America’s College Promise: This proposal would make two years of community college free for responsible students, letting students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and learn skills needed in the workforce at no cost. 
  • Federal Student Aid: Financial challenges are among the most common obstacles for students who want to attend college. Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. Applying for the program is free, and the Federal Student Aid program ensures that students and families are informed about the availability of financial aid services and the process for applying and receiving funds. 
  • Lumina Foundation: The Lumina Foundation is committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60% by 2025. 
  • BigFuture by The College Board: For Undocumented Students: This section of the College Board website is devoted to issues facing undocumented students, including eligibility, application procedures, and financial aid access. 
  • White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics: The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics was originally established in 1990 to address the educational disparities faced by the Hispanic community. Supporting college access and completion is a major focus of the initiative. 

Next, complete two short reflection questions and click "done" to gain additional insights. Please note: Once you click "done" your responses are no longer retrievable.You may want to copy and paste your responses into a word document.

Marisela, high school senior
Marisela's mother Biology teacher Guidance Counselor Supporting data Up next -> University
Piecing it all together

1 College Board. (2013). Education pays 2013: The benefits of higher education for individuals and society. Retrieved from

2 National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). Back to school statistics. Retrieved from

3 Ibid.

4 The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. (2015). Hispanic educational progress timeline from 1990 to 2015. Retrieved from

5 Gándara, P. (2015). Fulfilling America’s future: Latinas in the U.S., 2015. Retrieved from

6 Gándara, P. (2015); Gándara, P., Alvarado, E., Driscoll, A., & Orfield, G. (2012). Building pathways to transfer: Community colleges that break the chain of failure for students of color. Retrieved from

7 Smith, J., Pender, M., Howell, J., & Hurwitz, M. (2012). A review of the causes and consequences of students’ postsecondary choices. Retrieved from

8 Lopez, M.H. (2009). Latinos and education: Explaining the attainment gap. PEW Research Center. Retrieved from

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Published by Harvard Family Research Project