Sep 27, 2023 - World

52% of Hispanic college students considered leaving school last year

Illustration of a cracked mortar board.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

More than half of Hispanic college students considered leaving school for at least a semester last year — a staggering increase since 2020, according to a study released Wednesday.

Why it matters: The study by the Lumina Foundation and Gallup illustrates that despite the overall increasing percentage of Latinos who enroll in college, they are struggling in a way that "should stop you in your tracks," says Gallup education researcher Zach Hrynowski.

By the numbers: The survey found 52% of Hispanic respondents said they were considering stopping their coursework for at least a term, a 10 percentage point increase from 2020.

  • 43% of Black students, 36% of white students and 30% of Asian students said the same.
  • Lumina and Gallup surveyed 6,008 enrolled college students — 1,307 of whom were Hispanic — over the span of about three weeks last fall.

Zoom in: Emotional stress, mental health and the costs of education were the top reasons Hispanic students gave, though they cited them at lower rates than their white peers.

  • For example, 63% of white students cited emotional stress as a reason for thinking about leaving school, while 46% of Hispanics said the same.
  • Part of that could be driven by the still-existing stigmas around mental health in Latino communities, Hrynowski says.
  • Hispanic students were much more likely than white students to say they were considering leaving college to care of an adult family member or because of childcare responsibilities.

What they're saying: College students from underrepresented communities need extra support to succeed, says CaVar D. Palmer Reid of Thrive Scholars, a national nonprofit that prepares students of color for college and provides mentoring and other services through graduation.

  • Reid, the managing director of high school and college programs, says many students of color struggle to feel culturally connected in institutions that are predominantly white and grapple with being away from their families.
  • "For some of our students, especially our Latinx students, they might be the interpreter at home, they might be a really trusted source of income at home," Reid adds.
  • "One of the things we try to do when we recruit students into this program is help them understand what we're trying to help you be set up to do is be a game changer in your home."

Brennis Carrillo, a 19-year-old Harvard sophomore who is part of the Thrive program, says she had a hard time adapting to the bustling life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after growing up in Hobart, Indiana, a city of about 30,000 residents.

  • "When I came onto Harvard's campus, I didn't really know that many people or know anything about the school. I was the first person from my high school ever come here. So it was definitely a big shock wave."
  • Carrillo says being part of a network and community through Thrive Scholars has helped her adapt and do well.
  • "Having a community here can really mean a lot because this place is so intimidating and it's really easy to lock yourself in your room and get homesick," Carrillo says.

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