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Education secretary ponders how to keep Hispanics in college

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday that he wanted his department to help cut dropout rates and boost college enrollment for Hispanic Americans.The push for scholastic equality comes as President Barack Obama tries to improve the nation's educational system so that by 2020 the U.S. leads the world with its percentage of college graduates, as Duncan reiterated at a gathering of Hispanic college administrators.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that a quarter of the country's children younger than 5 are Hispanic, making Obama's goal almost impossible without their participation.Hispanic undergraduates face numerous problems, however. They're more likely to be financially disadvantaged, they have less access to school information and they often come from families that got along without college, said attendees at this week's Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities conference.

Duncan's strategy for
addressing those problems relies on revamping financial aid and high school curricula, along with a touch of social engineering."The absolute challenge we have is one of low expectations," Duncan said.
"We have more resources than the department has ever had. We're going to try to put our money where our mouth is."Duncan's office has more dollars and more influence than any other education chief's has in U.S. history.

However, the question remains how to translate that muscle into prescriptions for the nation's educational bills.Hispanics have started to close the gap in freshman-year college enrollment, but they've stalled in graduation rates, according to a study released last month by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy organization in Washington.

On average, 51 percent of Latino undergraduates earn degrees in six years or fewer, compared with 59 percent of non-Hispanic white students, the study found. To change that, the Education Department and its state counterparts need to link funds for institutions that serve Hispanics to graduation totals rather than to enrollment numbers, said Andrew P. Kelly, a co-author of the report. READ FULL STORY

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