In 2005, Texas became a majority minority state when its non-White residents comprised the majority of the total population. This change was driven almost exclusively by a growing Hispanic population. As we move into the future, these demographic shifts will continue to impact higher education as well as the Texas economy.

Today, young Texans are increasingly likely to be Hispanic. In fact, by 2050, it is projected that 61 percent of children, 60 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, and 56 percent of 25- to 44-year-olds will be Hispanic. To understand the impact and importance of this demographic transition on higher education in Texas, let’s take a look at some statistics below from Trellis’ 2019 State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas report related to high school graduation rates, college enrollment, and college graduation rates.
Projected* 2050 Population by Age and Ethnicity in Texas

Source: State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas (SOSA) 2019, Trellis Company

The growing importance of a high school diploma

While it has been well established that attaining a high school diploma is an important step to a financially sustainable future, the significance of this accomplishment is growing. By 2020 it is estimated that only 21 percent of jobs in Texas will be available to those who have not completed high school; either through graduation or a general equivalency degree (GED). Within this shrinking percentage of jobs, it is estimated that the positions available will be largely limited to food service, personal service, and occupations such as construction, production, and transportation. A further potential negative impact on this sector of the population is the rapid rise of automation technology in these industries, which is cannibalizing low-skill jobs and stagnating wages. In comparison, middle-skill jobs, which require a high school diploma or GED and often some postsecondary education, are growing and experiencing strong wage performance.

Delays in college enrollment create risk

Studies show that delaying postsecondary enrollment after high school, especially for a long period of time, is a risk factor for students attending college altogether as well as for graduating college once enrolled. While research shows that delays which allow students to mature, gain work experience, or gather resources for higher education can be helpful, there is also a risk in shifting expectations and goals related to obtaining a postsecondary degree, which can lead to lower rates of attendance and graduation. Post recession trends reveal a decline in high school graduates immediately enrolling in college, including Hispanics, which may have a negative impact on future attendance and graduation rates.

Percentage of Texas High School Graduates Enrolling in College Immediately after Graduation*

Source: State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas (SOSA) 2019, Trellis Company

College graduation rates are rising, but taking longer

The good news is that college graduation rates in Texas are rising, which helps to improve overall earnings potential. However, the increased potential is taking longer to manifest. Recent data show that the majority of degrees (72.4 percent) are now completed in more than four years. This extended timeline may be attributed to a number of factors ranging from degree requirements (more than 120 hours) to students attending part-time to cut costs, reduce borrowing, or to work. Six-year graduation rates have risen over the past two decades across all racial and ethnic groups, however they still remain stratified by ethnicity.

First-time Freshmen Who Entered a Texas Public University and Received a Bachelor's Degree within Six Years, by Ethnicity

Source: State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas (SOSA) 2019, Trellis Company

The presence of poverty

Overall and childhood (under 18) poverty rates in Texas are also worth noting. In 2016, Texas had the 14th highest poverty rate in the nation, with 15.6 percent of its residents living in poverty. That year, poverty was defined as having an earned income of $24,339 or less for a family of four with two children, or $12,486 or less for an individual under 65 years old. The 254 counties in Texas make up seven distinct regions; the state’s poverty rates vary widely by those regions. By a large margin, the Rio Grande region, which has the highest percentages of Hispanic population in the State, has the highest rates of overall and childhood poverty at 30 and 42 percent respectively – at least 11 percentage points higher than the next highest region. The West region, which also has a very high percentage Hispanic population, ties for the second-highest rate of combined overall and childhood poverty rates in the State. Considering the cost of college, living at or below the poverty level can be a significant barrier to accessing and attaining higher education.

The Impact of Poverty on Educational Attainment in Texas.

Source: Based on State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas (SOSA) 2019, Trellis Company

High School graduates who were deemed economically disadvantaged in Texas are less likely to enroll in college

Additional studies show that economically disadvantaged high school graduates in Texas (those who were eligible for free or reduced school lunches while in school) are less likely to enroll in college. While not identical to poverty statistics—there are concerns about using ‘economically disadvantaged’ as a proxy for income level, but at present it is the best income indicator available—the correlation between being economically disadvantaged and a lower likelihood of college enrollment in Texas is still present. It is also an important statistic as 64 percent of Hispanic and 57 percent of African-American high school graduates in Texas are considered economically disadvantaged.

Percentage of 2016-17 Texas High School Graduates Enrolled in Texas Higher Education in Fall 2017, by Ethnicity

Source: State of Student Aid and Higher Education in Texas (SOSA) 2019, Trellis Company

Where we are today

Fortunately, Texas’ younger Hispanic generation is completing high school at an increasing rate. In fact, Texas ranked fifth nationally in high school graduation rates in 2015-2016, which included an 87% graduation rate among Hispanic students. However, Texas’ older Hispanic population lags. That same year (2016) statistics show that 37 percent of Hispanics age 25 and older did not have a high school diploma.

Although progress is evident, there is still much work to do … especially at the postsecondary level. In the years to come, college attainment among Hispanics will set the tone for Texas’ future, including economic prosperity, business growth, and government leadership.

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