Teachers College, Columbia University

New Study Shows Significantly More Hispanics Attended CUNY in Last Decade, but Their Achievement Lags Other Ethnic Groups

NEW YORK, NY (April 17, 2006) — A new study released today by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teacher’s College, Columbia University reveals that the enrollment of Hispanic students at New York City’s colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY) has significantly increased in the last decade, but that more still needs to be done to ensure that these students realize the opportunities offered by higher education.

“It is encouraging to see that more Hispanics are attending CUNY, but given how many Hispanics live in New York City, we have more work to do to make sure that CUNY’s doors are open to them and that they have success once they enroll,” said Dr. Thomas Bailey, director of CCRC and co-author of the study. “This is particularly true for Hispanic immigrants, including Island-born Puerto Ricans, who attended CUNY in lower numbers relative to their citywide representation than any other ethnic or racial group in the last decade.”

The longitudinal study, “Access and Achievement of Hispanics and Hispanic Immigrants in the Colleges of the City University of New York,” looked at the representation of Hispanic students at CUNY relative to their population in the city and how the enrollment and achievement of these students changed from 1990 and 2000. The study used CUNY data obtained from the U.S. Census, which allowed the study to disaggregate by native and foreign born, as well as country of origin.

The data reveal a dramatic growth in Hispanic enrollment at CUNY during the 1990s, particularly among Hispanic immigrants. In 1990, the Hispanic population represented 24.4% of the population in New York City and at CUNY. By 2000, Hispanics represented 30.1% of the population at CUNY, but 27% in the city overall, indicating that the Hispanic student population growth exceeded that of the city by 3%. The proportion of Hispanic immigrants at CUNY grew by over 10 percentage points, from 33.5% of all Hispanic students in 1990 to 44.9% by 2000.

However, fewer Hispanics attended CUNY relative to their citywide population as compared to other racial or ethnic minorities. While native-born Hispanics, including mainland-born Puerto Ricans, attended CUNY at higher rates in comparison to other racial or ethnic groups, Hispanic immigrants, especially island-born Puerto Ricans, attended CUNY at lower rates than native-born Hispanics and at lower rates than all other immigrant populations relative to their citywide populations.

Within CUNY, Hispanics, particularly the foreign-born, were concentrated in community colleges. While Hispanic students earned associate (two-year) degrees and transferred to senior (four-year) colleges at rates nearly identical to or higher than non-Hispanic students, fewer obtained bachelor’s degrees. Hispanic women earned more bachelor’s degrees than their male counterparts.

Hispanic students also tended to earn fewer credits than students from all other racial or ethnic populations. When comparing Hispanics with other populations by place of birth, foreign-born Hispanics earned credits at significantly lower rates compared with other immigrants and those who are native-born.

“Given that obtaining a bachelor’s degree is closely linked to higher wages and increased job stability, it is particularly important that more Hispanics at CUNY succeed in transferring to a four-year college and complete a bachelor’s degree,” said Dr. Bailey. “Education is doubly important for Hispanic immigrants because many arrive in the United States with only a high school diploma or even less education, intent on earning a living through hard work in low-skill labor positions. Their chances of economic stability increase if they are able to achieve associate degrees and even more so if they achieve bachelor’s degrees at CUNY.”

“This study shows clearly that we need to empower the Hispanic community to take advantage of the education offered at CUNY. It is not enough to just talk about the diversity of New York City and the contributions that Hispanic immigrants make to our wonderful city—we need to give Hispanics a greater chance of upward mobility,” said Eduardo Marti, president of Queensborough Community College. “As decision makers, we need to ensure that the equal access and opportunity mission is a true ‘portal of entry’ to the American Dream. CUNY as an integrated University provides a pathway from the Associates to the Ph.D for all who want it. We have to ensure that our students complete the highest possible degree.”