Latinos and Education | Latino Leadership Institute


The social, political, economic, and cultural factors that impact the educational experience of Latinos in the United States are complex – and a growing area of research. Across the K-16 pipeline, the dynamics of a growing population have created opportunities and challenges for educators, policymakers, families, and students to dissect and debate.

Quick Facts


In Colorado, 30% of the K-12 population is Latino.


For every 100 Latino ninth graders in Colorado, only 67 will graduate from high school, 28 will enroll in college and only 10 will graduate.


Colorado is last among the 50 states when comparing Latinos (ages 25-64) to whites who hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.


The 35 percent degree attainment gap is the largest equity gap in the country.

The Opportunity

The issue of education is an important one for both Latinos and the United States. Roughly eight in 10 Latinos cited education as “very important” to their vote in the 2016 election, ranking it as a top issue alongside the economy, health care, and terrorism, according to the Pew Research Center. For the United States to regain the top international ranking for college degree attainment, Latinos will need to earn 5.5 million degrees by 2020.

With the 8th largest Latino population among states in the US, Colorado is projected to show a dramatic and continued increase in its Latino population growth. The youthful average age of Colorado Latinos (26) also means that the percentage of the Latino K-12 population will continue to increase over the next several decades. Today, K-12 Latino enrollment in Colorado public schools is at 30 percent compared to the overall Latino population of 21 percent in the state.

These numbers mean that opportunities exist throughout the education pipeline to increase K-12 achievement, college readiness, enrollment, persistence, and completion.  The opportunities are most prevalent in the need to use data and evidence-based practices to inform public policy and increase Latino student achievement outcomes.  Doing so will help to supply our future workforce and civically-engaged leaders at scale.

The Challenge

By 2020, nearly 75 percent of jobs in Colorado will require a postsecondary credential, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Thus, filling this workforce pipeline is not only Colorado’s test, it is also the Latino community’s greatest educational challenge as well.

 In analyzing the data, Colorado is last among the 50 states when comparing Latinos (ages 25-64) to whites who hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. According to the Bell Policy Center, 20 percent of adult Latinos in Colorado have earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree compared to 55 percent of whites. This 35 percent gap is the largest equity degree attainment gap in the country, unfortunately.

In the K-12 sector, school readiness and achievement are where other challenges exist. In general, Latino students nationally need to improve in reading and math. In multiple national elementary education studies, Latino children had lower mean reading and math scores compared to Asian and white Americans. And, even though dropout rates of Latino students have decreased nationally over the past 15 years, Latinos remain less likely to graduate from high school on time compared to other groups, except for African Americans. In 2010, 71 percent of Latino high school students graduated within four years of enrolling in high school, compared to Asians (94 percent), whites (83 percent), and African Americans (66 percent), according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

With education as the primary means to improve human capital, it is our hope that the diverse stakeholders who impact education policy can have data-driven discussions to influence – and accelerate — Latino student success.