Despite high barriers of entry, Latinas in recent decades have made significant progress to increase representation in higher education. This is a representational image. Unsplash/MD Duran

NEW YORK CITY - Higher education in the U.S. can often present high barriers of entry for minorities. From high prices of tuition and fees to disparities in quality of primary education, it often seems disproportionately difficult for minorities to be able to have the same kind of access to the world of universities and other institutions of higher education.

However, Latinas have made significant progress in overcoming these challenges over the past year, increasing their representation among those with bachelor's degrees.

These numbers have increased steadily, from almost 1 million Latinas acquiring a bachelor's degree in 2000 to 3.5 in 2021, according to a recent study by Latino Data Hub, a research institute focusing on Latinos in the U.S.

Over the same period, the percentage of Latina adults with a bachelor's degree or higher almost quadrupled, from 5% in 2000 to 20% in 2021.

Though the study doesn't specifically mention the reasons for this shift, inclusion initiatives from colleges and education departments— such as increased financial aid, supportive programs and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) specialists— may have been a significant factor.

Here are some facts you should know about Latinas and higher education, according to the study by Latino Data Hub:

  • Younger Latinas are obtaining bachelor's degrees at considerably higher rates than older generations. A quarter of Latinas ages 25 to 34 had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2021, compared to 16% of Latinas ages 55 to 64.
  • Females are more likely than males to have obtained a bachelor's degree or higher for every racial and ethnic group except for Asians or Pacific Islanders. However, the percentage point difference between females and males is greater for women of color. For instance, among white individuals, 38% of women had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 37% of men. In comparison, 20% of Latinas had completed a bachelor's degree or higher versus 16% of Latino men.
  • Latinos of South American descent tend to have the highest rate of individuals with a bachelor's degree or more. Of the 19 Latino descent groups analyzed in the study, 8 0f the 10 are South American. Over half of Latinas and Latino males from Venezuela had a bachelor's degree or higher, the highest rate among Latino descent groups. Venezuelans, the fastest growing Latino group in the U.S. over the last 20 years, have also helped narrow the educational attainment gap between Latinos overall and the U.S. population.
  • English proficiency plays a key role in the obtaining of higher education degrees. Latinas with limited English proficiency had the lowest rates of having obtained a bachelor's degree (10%). Nevertheless, Latinas across all proficiency levels continued to have higher levels of educational attainment than Latino males.
  • Latinas with a bachelor's degree or higher earn a lower median hourly wage than most other college-educated groups, regardless of race and sex. In 2021, Latinas with a bachelor's degree or higher earned a median hourly wage of $26, the second lowest of all workers by race, ethnicity, and sex. Compared to similarly educated Latino men, Latinas earned $6 less per hour. Compared to similarly educated white men, Latinas made $14 less per hour.

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