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PRESS RELEASE

February 17, 2004

Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413

Governor Jeb Bush and Education Commissioner Jim Horne Announce Hispanic Students Bucking National Trend
Florida's Hispanic students are making strides in earnings and graduation

ST. PETERSBURG — Governor Jeb Bush and Education Commissioner Jim Horne today announced that Florida is bucking the trend revealed in a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center entitled "Latinos in Higher Education: Many Enroll, Too Few Graduate." During a State Board of Education meeting at St. Petersburg College, Community Colleges Chancellor David Armstrong reported on the progress Florida's Hispanic students have made.

"Florida has gone to great lengths to increase access to higher education for all students," said Governor Jeb Bush. "I am pleased to see that our Hispanic students are making the most of the opportunities available and that our efforts to raise student achievement are paying off."

Hispanics have led the decline in high school dropouts with their dropout rate cut by more than half from 8.3 percent in 1999 to 3.5 percent in 2003. Between 1998 and 2001 (the most recent figures available), the percentage of Hispanic high school students deemed ready for college rose by 12 percentage points, compared to 8 points among African Americans and four points among whites.

"Minority students in Florida continue to make great progress," said Commissioner Horne. "Not only are more Hispanics reading on grade level in the lower grades, more of them are graduating high school, preparing for college, enrolling, and graduating."

Florida's "2+2" system provides that students who complete the Associate in Arts (AA) degree are guaranteed admission into an upper division program within Florida's State University System (SUS). Of those students who came to college already prepared, Hispanic AA graduates are transferring to the SUS at a higher rate than their counterparts - 40 percent of Hispanics, compared to 30 percent each among whites and African Americans.

This bodes well for Hispanic students, given that 60 percent of AA graduates who enter the SUS graduate within four years. Moreover, the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program (FETPIP) 10-year longitudinal study of wage data clearly shows Hispanics had the highest full quarter earnings in 2000-2001 in all categories of educational attainment, when compared with African Americans, whites and Asians.

"The Pew Center study suggests that Hispanic students are being 'shortchanged' by ending their education at the community college level," said Chancellor Armstrong. "That is simply not the case in Florida."

The Southern Regional Education Board recently ranked Florida first among 16 southern states in graduation rates, with 30 percent of students graduating compared to 17 percent regionally. From 1997 to 2001, while the percent of white program completers at our Community Colleges has dipped slightly (3 percent), the percent of Black program completers has risen 18 percent and Hispanic program completers are up by 23 percent.

In fact, in 1999-2000 Hispanic students in Florida earned considerably more bachelor degrees by percentage than did Hispanics in the United States as a whole. While Florida is home to more Hispanics as a percentage of the population than the U.S. as a whole (16.8 percent, compared to 12 percent nationally), it awards significantly more bachelors degrees to Hispanics. Florida conferred 13.3 percent of its bachelor degrees to Hispanics, compared with only 6 percent nationwide.

A copy of Chancellor Armstrong's report, "Florida's Hispanic Community College Students: Making Strides in Earnings and Graduation," is attached. (PDF)

For more information on the Pew Hispanic Center study "Latinos in Higher Education: Many Enroll, Too Few Graduate," please visit www.pewhispanic.org.