• September 4, 2015

Educational Difficulties of Men and Immigrants Hinder Efforts to Improve College Attainment

The educational difficulties of men, as well as influxes of immigrants with weak educational backgrounds, have emerged as major challenges to the nation's efforts to get a larger share of its population through college, according to a new report by the American Council on Education.

"The overarching finding of this report is that the United States is no longer gaining ground in the educational attainment of its population from one generation to the next," Molly Corbett Broad, the council's president, said at a recent news conference to discuss the report's findings.

"In general, each generation of younger women in the United States is continuing to reach higher levels of attainment, while that of younger men is falling," Ms. Broad said.

Nearly all of the gains among women are being driven by those who are white or Asian-American, says the report, the 24th edition of "Minorities in Higher Education" issued by the council. The gains being made by black and Hispanic women are not nearly as large, and, on the whole, members of those two minority groups in the 25-to-34 age bracket have lower college attainment rates than they did a generation ago, according to the report, which can be purchased on the council's Web site.

Ms. Broad said the report's findings show that the nation is not on track to reach President Obama's goal of having the United States lead the world, by 2020, in the proportion of its residents with a college credential or degree.

Focus on Hispanic Immigrants

The report, based mainly on data from the U.S. Census and the National Center for Education Statistics, is not the first by the American Council on Education to find that generational progress in educational attainment has stalled. The council group reached similar conclusions in its last such overview of minority educational progress, issued in 2008.

The latest report covers new ground, however, with a special section focusing on the nation's Hispanic population, which has the lowest rate of high-school completion and the lowest level of educational attainment of any minority group, and has made the least progress in recent decades in the growth of its share of young people going on to college.

"Our nation stands at the intersection of bold new goals for educational attainment on one hand and a pattern of low educational attainment for Hispanic students on the other," Ms. Broad said in a news release. The nation needs to act to improve Hispanic access to postsecondary education, she said, because the "costs of leaving behind generations of the fastest-growing population in this country are too great."

The report, which was released a day after President Obama signed an executive order renewing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, points out that many of the educational problems of the nation's Hispanic population stem from the challenges Hispanic immigrants face, and it cautions that failing to take the needs of such immigrants into account "might lead to unsustainable reforms or unrealistic expectations."

It cites an analysis of 2000 Census data, which found that nearly half of young Hispanic adults without a high-school credential had never enrolled in a school in the United States.

"Unlike many other immigrants, most Hispanic immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, come from underachieving economic and educational backgrounds," the report notes.

The chances that immigrants will get a college education are especially low if they had difficulty with school in their country of origin or immigrated to the United States much past early childhood, as most do, the report says.

Being an undocumented immigrant also is associated with low educational levels. Nearly two-thirds of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the 25-to-64 age range have not completed high school, compared with a fourth of those who came here legally.

Hispanic immigrants are more likely than others to be limited in their English proficiency, even when compared with immigrants who have comparable educational-attainment levels. And many have come here mainly to work in low-skill, low-wage jobs, leaving them unwilling to sacrifice potential work hours to go to school and unlikely to have employers who perceive any benefit in helping pay for their educations, the report says.

Groups that advocate stricter immigration policies have cited the low educational levels of many Hispanic immigrants as a reason for tighter border controls.

"One of the reasons we need to stop illegal immigration, and limit legal immigration, is because these people are trying to assimilate and compete in a society that requires high levels of education," said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

His organization has called for changes in immigration policy to give more priority to the highly skilled and less weight to family connections.

In discussing the council's report last week, however, Ms. Broad said her organization had no intention of using it to wade into the debate over "issues related to immigration that have a life of their own." She noted that her group has been a strong supporter of the Dream Act, a proposed change in federal law that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented students and make them eligible for some federal student aid.

The council's report urges the creation of new education and training programs tailored to the Hispanic population now in the United States. In determining which educational services are appropriate, the report says, it is important to differentiate between Hispanic children, more than 90 percent of whom are U.S.-born, and Hispanic adults, less than half of whom were born here.

Diversity Gains

In its analysis of differences in educational attainment among men and women, the council's report shows a changing picture over time. As of 2008, it says, 42 percent of women and 33 percent of men ages 25 to 34 had at least an associate degree. Among people in the 55-to-64 age bracket, however, men outpaced women among those with at least an associate degree, 40 percent to 34 percent.

Women also have made strides in their representation among college employees. From 1997 to 2007, the share of all college faculty members who are women rose from 36 percent to 42 percent, while the share of all college administrators who are women climbed from 45 percent to 53 percent. Although women still account for only about a fourth of college presidents, they are doing better in this area than they were in the mid-1980s, when they accounted for about a 10th of people at the helm of higher-education institutions.

Among other key findings, the report says:

  • High-school completion rates have remained relatively flat, at between 81 percent and 83 percent, over the past two decades, while college-persistence rates have declined slightly since the mid-1990s. Black students have the lowest college-persistence rate of any racial group.
  • The number of administrators at U.S. colleges rose by 47 percent from 1997 to 2007, a rate almost twice the 25-percent increase in the number of full-time faculty members at such institutions. During that period, the proportion of faculty positions held by minority members increased from 13 percent to 17 percent, while the proportion of administrative positions held by minority members rose from 14 percent to 18 percent.
  • Minority students' share of overall college enrollment rose from 25 percent in 1997 to 30 percent in 2007. But they became increasingly concentrated at two-year colleges, where they accounted for 36 percent of enrollment in 2007, compared with 26 percent of the enrollment at four-year institutions.
  • In all major academic fields, the number of doctoral degrees awarded to minority students rose substantially from 1997 to 2007. White students experienced a decline during that period in the number of doctoral degrees earned in engineering, the humanities, law, and the social sciences.
  • Among Asian-Americans, both men and women have improved their educational attainment since the mid-1990s, and Asian-Americans had the highest persistence rates among students who entered college as freshmen in 2003.
  • The nation's white population has experienced the fastest growth of any racial group in recent decades in its proportion of 18-to-24-year-olds enrolled in college. As of 2008, 45 percent of white students in this age bracket were enrolled in colleges, up from 31 percent in 1988. American Indians had the lowest college-going rates of any group, with just 24 percent of those of traditional college age being enrolled in 2008.


1. barnesms - October 20, 2010 at 06:02 am

The falling levels of men in college is not surprising. It did not begin in college but is also seen in high school. After the last 50 years of constantly pushing female education, it should not cause surprise that males have suffered. The tableaux has shifted and now reflects a feminization of education at all levels. All teaching processes have been recast to solely focus on the benefit of our female population. Until such time as we are able to respect the learning styles of both males and females we will continue to see the decline of males in societal education.

2. jffoster - October 20, 2010 at 07:25 am

Actually. barnesms (1), in the Wussie New Universitie it is frowned upon to do anything in the "male" or masculine style. We must call them "first year students" because to call them "freshmen" might hurt their feelings and lower their self esteem. We must hold their hands every pirouette of the way. Students are expected to be interested in "relationships" and woe be unto the student who isn't interested in working in groups. Soon we'll have to take into account peoples' "feelings" about things like the quadratic formula and the VSO Basic Word Order of Polynesian and Celtic languages. And instead of giving arguments, we will all respond to something we don't agree with with "Hello?" and "Excuse me..". And we will be required to end every sentence with question rising intonation lest we seem to assertive.

The whole "industrie" is becoming effeminitized. And Valley Engirled.

3. landrumkelly - October 20, 2010 at 07:53 am

"The number of administrators at U.S. colleges rose by 47 percent from 1997 to 2007, a rate almost twice the 25-percent increase in the number of full-time faculty members at such institutions."

This is not the point of the article, but it is the sleeper in the article and worth taking note of.

Landrum Kelly, Jr.
Salisbury, NC

4. tsb2010 - October 20, 2010 at 08:52 am

"Unlike many other immigrants, most Hispanic immigrants, particularly those from Mexico, come from underachieving economic and educational backgrounds," the report notes.

Simple solution - stop admitting these immigrants, period. Unlike other countries, the US seems to admit the bottom of the barrel. Why import underachievers when we already have plenty of them around here? If you want the US to succeed, concentrate on those immigrants with at least a college degree...

5. tsb2010 - October 20, 2010 at 08:54 am

"The council's report urges the creation of new education and training programs tailored to the Hispanic population now in the United States."

great idea -- when will we get the pleasure of reading the Chronicle in Spanish?

6. bobfutrelle - October 20, 2010 at 09:17 am

There are cultures in our country in which it's not considered macho to read books, study, do homework, etc. When young men in these cultures look around them and see what other men are doing, they follow that way.

More and more people who study our society are admitting that the members of the less fortunate groups are trapped in cycles of lower education, higher unemployment rates, low-skilled jobs, etc.

I doubt that getto schools are pushing feminine education. Those schools are trapped in the reality of the societies they are embedded in. Not to mention that local funding of education leads to poorer schools in less affluent cities and towns -- another aspect of all this to consider.

- Bob Futrelle
Newton MA and Northeastern University

7. rshamwell - October 20, 2010 at 09:25 am

It is an invisible war as the feminization of education continues, not that females should be denied any opportunities. Nevertheless, at the risk of eliminating males (minorities), we may have tipped the scale a little too much. This is very relevant because a cultural shift is taking place as the statistical information reveals wider and unsettling gaps in opportunities for males. As the shift in culture is taking place, it allows less minority participation in spite of some marginal gain or improvements, which may have no impact on dominant cultural practices. The manifest function of education being feminized creates more latent or unintended consequence as indicated in the report, so while the feminization of poverty is being eradicated, we are establishing a new and deeper economic social arrangement for minority immigrate males in America. The report is making the shift very visible. rLshamwell

8. 11173183 - October 20, 2010 at 11:17 am

What does "feminized education" mean? Just because more females are attending college than are males, are you barnesms and others here saying that is happening because education is being feminized? How does one draw such conclusions? More females attending college does not equate to "femiinization" of education.

9. jp1980 - October 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

jffoster's comment is clearly meant to provoke; there's no other explanation for how offensive and poorly-reasoned it is.

I agree with 11173183, and I continue to take issue with this pervasive idea that more women in higher education means that higher ed somehow becomes weak and irrelevant.

10. bjackerson - October 20, 2010 at 12:02 pm

The higher rates of female participation in higher education is not a problem or a warniong sign of cultural problems. It is the "culture of boys/men" that does not equate learning and studying wiht masculine behavior that is a matter fo concern. For African-Americans and Latinos this is particularly an issue. The higher wage labor jobs that working class men could ascribe to in the past (he worked in industry while his wife was a nurse or teacher) are not as prevalent today while the professional jobs women aspire to are more prevalent. Guy culture needs to change to include intellectual accomplishsments as well as physical accomplishments (i.e. sports, etc.). Until it does "girls" will continue to be represented at increasingly higher rates in higher ed and in the professions than "boys", wiht the possible exception of predominately male professions such as engineering.

11. 22191530 - October 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

It's kind of interesting how the world turns. I remember a decade ago there was plenty of literature about girls not getting the education they needed to move on and succeed in college, and female teachers were accused of being biased towards their male students. Now the literature is replete with books but with regard to boys, blaming factors such as the lack of recess, the sedentary nature of academic studies, etc.

12. texasguy - October 20, 2010 at 12:50 pm

To #6:

Bob, you said it!

13. 3224243 - October 20, 2010 at 01:02 pm

#3 - every employee not part of the faculty is considered an "administrator" - that includes your departmental secretary, the helpdesk folks who answer your computer-related questions and the student support staff who process all the paperwork that put the butts in the seats.

Go ahead - eliminate all the administrative positions and see how many students remain.

14. softshellcrab - October 20, 2010 at 02:54 pm

@tsb2010 #4

Thanks for your remarks. The U.S. continually allows in people from countries that are full of crime and devoid of achievement, then we wonder why our society is dragged down. Here is my test for immigrants: Look at the country they come from. Don't expect them to somehow magically become better after they come here if their own country is poor, or crime and despot-ridden, or full of groups who don't like each other, or full or corruption and deceit, or subjugates women, etc. You mention Mexico. Mexico is poor, uneducated, poorly performing, crime ridden, has achieved nothing and has invented nothing. If we allow in more and more Mexican people, we look more and more like Mexico. And they will, I repeat, will, vote for the politicians who will take away my money, and my children's money, to give it to them.

As far as education, make it rigorous for all and let the chips fall where they fall. If certain groups do worse, that is too bad.

15. anonscribe - October 20, 2010 at 03:04 pm

@rshamwell - "It is an invisible war as the feminization of education continues, not that females should be denied any opportunities."
@jffoster - "Actually. barnesms (1), in the Wussie New Universitie it is frowned upon to do anything in the "male" or masculine style."


The facts in the 2010 census report don't support the council's assertions - or the backwater conspiracy theories of the commenters above. Men have higher educational attainment as a percentage of population in all ethnic groups except for blacks and hispanics. Of course, I can't check this because I'm not going to buy the council's report. Seems sketchy to me. I'm guessing if you look at those who hold "a bachelor's" but exclude those with advanced degrees, the situation looks unjustifiably bad for men, who still have higher percentages of advanced degree attainment than women. If you carve it up the way the census does, the only glaring inequality is between Asian men and Asian women, with Asian women attaining college degrees at a rate 7% lower than their male counterparts.

Anyway, I didn't know it was "feminine" to read books or do your homework. Apparently, I've been a "wus" my whole life because I got my work done and didn't whine, like most boys/college "men" do, that they'd rather be playing video games, getting wasted, or flirting with girls. "Group work" is effeminate? What are you smoking? Are bankers, lawyers, scientists, and executives "effeminized" by working in large groups their whole careers? Absolutely ludicrous.

16. anonscribe - October 20, 2010 at 03:08 pm

edit: I meant "glaring GENDER inequality." The other, much more serious, inequality is between races. 10-20% depending.

17. edfinance1 - October 20, 2010 at 04:12 pm

@ softshellcrab -- I agree with you 100%. Another problem with many Mexican immigrants is their reluctance -- or outright refusal -- to learn English & be assimilated in the American "melting pot." As evidence, one only needs to enter virtually any commercial institution to see signs in both English and Spanish. Not only do many immigrants see it unnecessary to assimilate, the more radical elements(La Raza, MECHA) seek to overpower or eliminate the majority culture and "reclaim" the southwestern states for "Aztlan." Moreover, they don't need to do so by military means. The combination of unchecked flow of illegal immigrants and much higher-than-normal rates of population growth will inexorably lead to this outcome. The fastest-growing population is Mexican-American; LA Unified School District is already more than 50% Latino. Want to see the future? You need look no further than California.

18. rambo - October 20, 2010 at 04:48 pm

the feminists are jumping around with happy faces. when 95% of all elementary schools are females, there are no male role models. go figure.

19. arrive2__net - October 20, 2010 at 07:36 pm

If you look at the census data cited above (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0225.pdf) for males and for females the percent of college graduates has more than doubled since 1970, compared to that, what the ACE report is talking about seems little more than noise. A lot of factors can affect the ACE's stats. For example, if there are more higher education opportunities or requirements for nursing or k12 teaching occupations, the proportion of female to male educational attainment is likely to be affected. The huge increase in male college graduation since 1970 (from 13.5% in 1970 to 30.1% in 2008) doesn't make it look like college has become a hostile environment for males.

However, people at Education Week have been talking about the issue of reduced k12 academic achievement for boys for some time
(http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/whyboysfail/). Maybe some of the apparent k12 reduction in male academic achievement is driven by modern distractions, like electronic games.

Bernard Schuster

20. 12034934 - October 21, 2010 at 06:04 pm

"The nation needs to act to improve Hispanic access to postsecondary education, she said, because the 'cost of leaving behind generations of the fastest-growing population in this country are too great.'"

The fact that Spanish-speaking people in the U.S. are under-represented in higher education is not a new problem. It is complex and multi-dimensional. What is new is the recognition by many academic, political and community leaders that higher education must do a better job of supporting a growing Latino population so that this sector may more likely complete their degree.

According to 2008 census data, only 12.9% of Hispanic students who attend college actually complete their degree. One factor is that many are not confident in their English proficiency to take on college level work. Nevertheless, the Hispanic students may be capable of learning the content and concepts of freshman and sophomore level courses in Spanish while acquiring English language proficiency and adapting to the culture of US institutions of higher education.

IHOU has engaged several educational leaders and experts in building tools and solutions for Hispanic students. We recognize that enabling students to study core courses in Spanish while simultaneously mastering English language learning increases the rate of degree attainment. We have discovered this approach to higher education is less a question of viability but one of how this process is best presented so that institutions can take action to help these students reach their goal of attaining a higher education.

Marvin D. Loflin
President, International Hispanic Online University

21. riojas - October 21, 2010 at 06:56 pm

With our nation's Hispanic students still struggling to attain higher levels of education, students are fortunate enough to have for-profit universities as an option. Convenient class schedules and locations assist the many students who work while attending school-even more of whom are the first generation in their family to pursue higher education. While President Obama advocates his goal of more college graduates and supports community colleges as the number one option for achievement of that goal, we cannot overlook for-profit colleges. Without these school. many Hispanic students would be unable to learn the skills necessary to pursue their chosen careers. So, as we fight for access for Hispanic students to attend institutions of higher education, we should not overlook for-profit colleges and universities as an especially important option.

Alma Morales Riojas
President and CEO
MANA, A National Latina Organization

22. wdabc - October 23, 2010 at 09:42 am

Numerous countries limit immigration to the specialized professions in which their is a shortage of talent. This is a policy which should be seriously considered in the U.S.
@#s 4 and 14, I agree.

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