Hispanic Students Lag Behind Peers in College Readiness

ACT and Excelencia Report Reveals Mixed Progress Across Subject Areas

Many Hispanic students lag behind their peers in college readiness, although they aspire to attend college at similar rates, according to a new report released today by ACT and Excelencia in Education.

The report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014: Hispanic Students, shows that 83 percent of Hispanic 2014 high school graduates who took the ACT® test planned to enroll in college. Nearly half—47 percent—of those students, however, met none of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. In comparison, about one-third—31 percent—of all ACT-tested 2014 high school graduates met none of the four ACT Benchmarks.

There is a large and growing number of Hispanic students in the United States. Across the nation, one of every four public school students is Hispanic, and those numbers are expected to increase in the coming years. This past school year (2014–2015) marked the first time that students of color (Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian American and Pacific Islander students) made up the majority of kindergarten-through-high school students in U.S. public schools.

The dramatic rise in the number of ACT-tested Hispanic graduates over the past several years reflects this overall growth. The number of ACT-tested Hispanic graduates has increased by nearly 80 percent from 2010 to 2014—from 157,579 to 281,216 students.

“Finding ways to better serve Hispanic students and enhance their educational opportunities is essential to our nation’s overall progress,” said Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners. “As more of these students take the ACT, we gain a better understanding of the urgent need to provide them with high-quality academic preparation.”

Despite limited college readiness among Hispanic students, the report’s five-year trend data suggest Hispanic students might be making some gains in overall readiness. From 2010 to 2014, the percentage of Hispanic students meeting all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks has increased slightly, from 11 to 14 percent. The overall trends might also be showing some improvement in reading and science. The last two years have seen slight declines in English and math, but readiness in both areas remains higher than in 2010 despite the substantial increase in the number of students tested.

“Latino students continue to make progress, but more must be done,” said Deborah Santiago, COO and vice president of policy for Excelencia in Education. “Schools need to provide Latino students access to rigorous coursework, implement more student support services and involve parents in early interventions. Investing in Latinos at an earlier age increases college knowledge, improves preparation and sparks student interest in growing fields where we need talent, such as STEM.”

The research-based ACT College Readiness Benchmarks specify the minimum scores students must earn on each of the four subject tests of the ACT—English, math, reading and science—to have about a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in the corresponding subject area. ACT research suggests that students who meet the benchmarks are more likely than those who do not to persist in college and earn a degree.

The ACT report uses data from the more than 1.8 million ACT-tested 2014 high school graduates. The Hispanic-specific report is available at: act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/CCCR-2014-Hispanic.pdf.