The Intersection

myFutureNC Blog Series: Research Review | Breaking Down Barriers

January 22, 2020

By: Kyle Canuette, Associate Policy Analyst, The Hunt Institute

As part of the myFutureNC blog series, we periodically share research on attainment to make connections between national work and our efforts here in North Carolina. In North Carolina, 27 percent of Hispanic adults have completed a postsecondary degree or credential. The ACT Center for Equity in Learning recently partnered with Univision to identify ways to support Hispanic students achieve postsecondary success.  

While states across the nation are confronting postsecondary attainment gaps, many are doing so with an intentional focus on tackling equity gaps that persist for students of color. Among the various groups of students that deserve an additional focus, Hispanic students face numerous barriers to navigating the college process.

In North Carolina, myFutureNC has taken equity gaps into consideration throughout their statewide efforts to increase educational attainment. A recent study of North Carolina’s education pipeline revealed large gaps in postsecondary preparation, intent, and attainment between Hispanic students and their white counterparts. Among working age adults, 27 percent of Hispanic adults held a postsecondary degree while 53 percent of white working-age adults held a postsecondary degree. This leaky pipeline begins in high school as 9 percent of Hispanic students met the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks compared to 27 percent of white students, and 76 percent of Hispanic high school graduates reported an intent to enroll in a postsecondary degree program compared to 85 percent of white graduates.

The ACT Center for Equity in Learning and Univision partnered to investigate these challenges in their recent report titled Breaking down Barriers: Understanding Hispanic High School Students’ Perceptions on the Transition to College. Through a series of nationwide focus groups, researchers were able to identify the perceptions of, and barriers to, postsecondary participation among Hispanic students and their parents, finding that:

  • Both parents and students reported concerns that students were exiting K-12 school lacking the core academic, analytical, technological, and study skills needed to be successful in college coursework, and even in the application process.
  • Hispanic students reported struggling with resiliency and motivation during the college process as a result of low confidence.

  • As first-generation college students, many students felt isolated during the college and career navigation process, even relying on the internet to answer important questions due to a lack of support from school personnel.

To overcome these challenges, the report provided the following recommendations:

  • Increase opportunities for Hispanic students and their families to receive proactive college transition guidance from counselors and staff.
  • Engage in parental outreach programs to inform and involve families in the college application process through events like parent fairs and college nights at local high schools.
  • Increase access to resources for first-generation or minority high school students, families, and first-year college students to support the college transition, as well as retention and completion. This can include fee waivers for standardized tests, information about financial aid and scholarships, or study skills classes at the college level.

In North Carolina, myFutureNC is taking a close look at the equity gaps in state postsecondary attainment and the recommendations made in this report are informative as we work to identify ways to close the equity gap for Hispanic students. Organizations like UNC Chapel Hill’s Scholar’s Latinx Initiative (NC SLI) and North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals are already engaging with Hispanic students and families North Carolina. Intentionally supporting the college transition for North Carolina’s Hispanic students is critical as we work to lift up our diverse communities and, in turn, ensure that we have a workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of our state.


Kyle Canuette, Associate Policy Analyst
The Hunt Institute

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