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Hispanic high school graduates are now more likely than whites to enroll in college, the Pew Research Hispanic Center reports. In the class of 2012, 69 percent of Hispanic graduates and 67 percent of whites enrolled in college that fall.

Latinos are less likely to complete a high school diploma, but that’s improving too, reports Pew. In 2000, 28 percent of Hispanics 16 to 24 years old were high school dropouts, according to federal data. That fell to 14 percent by 2011. The Hispanic graduation rate rose to 78 percent in 2010, up from 64 percent ten years earlier, other research shows.

College graduation rates are lower for young Hispanics, however. Only 56 percent start at a four-year college, compared to 72 percent of whites. Hispanics are less likely to attend a selective college and more likely to enroll in community college. They’re also less likely to be full-time students.

Poor job prospects may be persuading more Hispanics to stay in school, Pew speculates. Since the onset of the recession at the end of 2007, unemployment among Latinos ages 16 to 24 has gone up by seven percentage points, compared with a five percentage point rise among white youths.

Latino families strongly value a college education. In a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey, 88 percent of Latinos ages 16 and older agreed that a college degree is necessary to get ahead in life today compared to 74 percent of the general population.

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Joanne Jacobs, formerly of the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, is a freelance journalist who blogs at joannejacobs.com.

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