Utah's State Office of Education is concerned about the growing number of dropouts in the state's high schools, the largest percentage of which are Hispanic students, according to the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City.
"Ten percent of students overall dropped out of school. Among Latino students - Utah's largest minority group - 26 percent dropped out in 2010," the Salt LakeTribune reported.
But Utah is not alone. The spike in the number of Hispanic high school dropouts is part of a national trend.
"The size of the Latino student population, whose graduation rate currently lags 21 percentage points behind that of non-Hispanic whites, has grown by 50 percent in the past decade alone," according to the Education Week.
High school drop out rates tend to be higher in cities with high socioeconomic disparities and racial segregation. "Epicenters of the dropout crisis are made up of a combination of traditional big-city districts and large countywide school systems. Many of the latter are home to major urban centers," Education Week reported. "The New York City public school system, the nation's largest district, serves 1.1 million students and predictably emerges as the leading source of nongraduates, with nearly 44,000 students slipping away each year."
New York is followed by Los Angeles, Cal.; Clark County, Nev., which includes Las Vegas; Chicago, Ill., and Miami-Dade County, Fla. These cities are considered immigration centers.
A study released Tuesday, "UP FOR GRABS: The Gains and Prospects of First-and Second-Generation Young Adults", offers some insight on the discrepancy in education levels between first and second generation Hispanics.
"Second-generation Hispanic's rates of high school attendance, enrollment in postsecondary institutions, and the recipient of an associate's or higher degree are significantly higher than their first-generation counterparts", according to the study.
It added: "While most 16- to 18-year-olds were enrolled in school, late-entrant Hispanics lagged behind." Late-entrant refers to Hispanics who entered the United States at age 16 or older.
Late entrants are considered to be the most vulnerable group. The report cites the main challenges faced by this group:
- Legal status: more than seven in ten are unauthorized and thus, ineligible for employment and most educational aid (These late entrants are not likely to be eligible for legal status under the DREAM act)
- Low English skills: two-thirds have extremely poor English skills (i.e. they reported speaking English "not well" or "not at all")
- Low education: many come for work and have limited or interrupted education in their home countries. As time passes, it becomes more difficult and fewer opportunities exist for these young adults to recover education.
However, the study found that "a much larger, faster-growing group-- the 1.2 million second-generation Hispanics--had substantially higher rates of school attendance."
The data provided in the report indicated that in 2009, 5.8 percent of Hispanics that arrived at 16 or later were enrolled in High School, compared to 24.8 percent of those who arrived before age 16. It said 36.2 percent of second generation Hispanics were enrolled.
The lower attendance rates among Hispanics who enter the states at 16 or later "probably owes to the fact that most of these youth do not enroll in school, opting instead for work", according to the report.
The result: No high school diploma, meaning no enrollment in college, which will likely limit the person to a minimum wage job.
"Wages rise with every increment of education- regardless or Nativity or Hispanic origin", according to the report. "The highest educational payoff comes at the bachelor's or higher degree level. At that point, all groups earn more than just family sustaining wages--defined here as $16 per hour".