Latino Men and Community Colleges

Hispanic Community February 2021 PREMIUM
Over sixty percent of Hispanic students attend community colleges. Paradoxically for nearly thirty years, more Latinas than Latinos have enrolled in those colleges.

More than any nation, America provides higher education opportunities for everybody. Many attend community colleges, which enroll a third of all college students.  Most Hispanics start their higher education studies at one of them.

Achieving acceptance

Long the stepchild of higher education and disparaged by colleges and universities, community colleges have finally come into their own. Their graduates occupy leadership positions in many professions. Nearly half of all baccalaureate awardees attended a CC.

Universities are now anxious and pleased to accept CC graduates. They need them to provide necessary enrollments to sustain their Junior and Senior level classes. Interestingly, nationwide those transfer students perform  better academically than those who originally enrolled as university freshmen.  Further, many universities have adopted once criticized community college innovations such as “developmental classes, focused counseling, and better classroom teaching” among others as their own. 

Why? Because they work. They help students succeed.

Hispanic Male Students – A Disconnect

Over sixty percent of Hispanic students attend community colleges.  Paradoxically for nearly thirty years, more Latinas than Latinos have enrolled in those colleges. The distribution is approximately sixty percent female to forty percent male. Further, female graduation rates exceed Latino males. Fewer males attend; far fewer graduate.

Derek Hatch, et al. in “Latino Men in Two-Year Public Colleges” point out that although more Hispanics are enrolling, “Latino males continue to lag behind their female peers in rates of enrollment and completion.” Further, “the gender gap for Latino males in postsecondary education has become increasingly evident in the last few decades, manifesting key disparities since elementary school in overall educational achievement.”

Latinos lag behind Latinas on key early childhood achievement indicators. Unfortunately, the trend intensifies in high school completion rates and on college enrollment and degree attainment. The education gap exists at all levels. The result? Only 14.2 percent of Hispanic males 25 years or older, had completed a bachelor’s degree as of five years ago. 

Why the disparity?

Some, suggest that Hispanic boys do not do well in school because they are anxious to finish school to get a job to help out at home.  But girls want to help their families as well, yet they persist in high school and in college. Other researchers suggest a lack of self-confidence, not believing they are college material, societal alienation, etc. hinder their academic achievements. But, again, Latinas raised in exact environments, probably have similar feelings -- but it hasn’t affected their academic successes as much. 

It should be pointed out that among Caucasians and blacks more females enroll in college than males. And both medical and law schools have a majority of women students. So, maybe female achievements reflect a national trend.

Higher attendance and persistence rates

The number of Hispanic high school graduates enrolling directly in college has risen over the years. That is important for research shows interrupting education, particularly among lower-income persons, often means it is never pursued.  

Several studies indicate, if not outright prove, that students, regardless of gender, have a higher college persistence level if they identify with a particular teacher, or discipline, or college activity during their first semester. The bonding association assists retention. 

Some colleges have established programs to foster those connections. Enhanced personalized counseling helps. Pairing male students with male mentors either on campus, i.e., Big Brother programs, or in the community with career-specific mentors, i.e., lawyers, have been most successful. Basically, engaging male students with a professional in a field that interests the student increases retention.

Time-consuming?  Yet another assignment? Absolutely! But if these strategies work, they are worth the effort.

Part-time male Hispanic students are a different story. Many are working, have financial obligations, and stay motivated because they perceive career advantages to their particular course of study. But they too should be afforded enhanced opportunities to sustain their motivation.

In short:  Unfortunately, too many Hispanic males are not achieving their academic potential. The lag begins in elementary school. The reasons remain murky. The strategies described above for CC students help. Others have to be created.


 Community colleges have played a vital role in the lives of many Hispanic male students. There are many success stories.  But the pandemic disrupted that trajectory.  It generated a massive drop in enrollment.

 Normally, enrollments surge during difficult times for community colleges offer opportunities for students to secure needed education and workplace skills.

So, most observers were not particularly concerned when the stock market crashed in March or COVID-19 began affecting the nation. CCs had faced “difficult times” before.  Colleges knew how to address pressing needs. But, this present disruption has been devastating.  

Serious enrollment declines

In the Fall of 2020, college enrollments declined due to the pandemic.  It led to significant changes in course offerings and their delivery, which drastically changed the student experience.  Distance learning is not in our inherited DNAs.  It is a taxing skill to be learned by both teacher and student. 

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports “overall enrollment at public two-year colleges fell 9.5 percent in the fall term, which is nearly nine times the pre-pandemic decrease from fall 2019 to fall 2018.

“First-year community college student enrollments plummeted 18.9 percent.”

Four-year colleges had smaller, single-digit declines in enrollment. Horrible as the virus effects were for all of higher education, it devastated some CCs.

Community College Freshman enrollment declined an unbelievable 27.5 percent. The highest of any segment. It is clear lower-income individuals suffered the most. A tragedy that will scar many lives.  It was particularly grim for Hispanics since so many attend CCs. Many dropped out or did not enroll.  Vulnerable students, such as Hispanic males, had their academic journey disrupted; many may never return. 

Bottom Line

The pandemic will pass; its damage should be repaired. The disconnect of Hispanic males and education persists.  We must address it starting at the elementary school level. Community colleges can help by reaching out to students and their parents to encourage higher education goals and then serving their particular needs when they arrive on our campuses.   We need better strategies for greater Hispanic male successes.


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