The Tale of Two Reports

I spent a couple of hours today searching for current data on Latino educational attainment and outcomes, specifically in the area of post-secondary education. I was a bit frustrated. Reports were either incomplete or dated.

Finally, I was able to find two good reports, both published this year, which provided detailed analysis. One report was from Department of Education’s (DOE) National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) entitled Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2017. This is a comprehensive report outlining the progress and challenges faced by different racial and ethnic groups.   The second report was from the American Council on Education’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS) entitled Pulling Back the Curtain: Enrollment and Outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions. This report was also a comprehensive examination of educational data but focused on minority serving institutions in the United States.

Frankly, I was left a bit disheartened after reviewing the NCES report. Latinos are indeed making strides. For example, Latinos doubled the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded between 2003-04 and 2013-2014. Yet, Latinos still lag well behind other racial and ethnic groups in regards to overall post-secondary attainment. Expecting the same results, I turned my attention to the CPRS report and was pleased, but puzzled, to read this:

The completion rate for exclusively full-time students at public two-year Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) was 40.3 percent using NSC data, compared to the federal graduation rate of 25.5 percent. The NSC total completion rate for public four-year HSIs was approximately 50 percent and 74.1 percent for exclusively full-time students, compared to a federal graduation rate of 42.7 percent.

Why the difference?

As compared to the NCES report, CPRS “aimed to paint a more complete” attainment and outcome picture by using data beyond that collected by the DOEcation. Another key difference between the reports is this:

As the NSC data show, the majority of students at HSIs do not attend college exclusively full time, which is significant since higher education policy is still largely rooted in the notion of a “traditional” student body that among other attributes attends college full time.

In other words, DOE education attainment reports factor in ALL educational institutions, post-secondary in this case. This is no fault of the DOE but does shed light on my initial gloomy reaction. These two reports also underscore the need to present information in a way that reveals a clearer picture of educational attainment by Latinos in the United States.