As Utah Latinos lag in educational attainment, study says it’s time to find ways to help them

They are 5 times less likely than Utahns overall to graduate from high school.

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) The posting of the colors is done by three young women representing "Latinos In Action" at the beginning of the ceremony at Delta High School for the Grand Opening of the Topaz Museum in Delta, Saturday, July 8, 2017. A new study says Utah Latinos are at a big disadvantage when it comes to education attainment.

Utah Latinos are five times less likely than state residents overall to graduate from high school and half as likely to receive any higher education — so leaders should look hard at how to help turn that around, a new study says.

The Utah Foundation, a nonprofit research group, issued “The State of Latinos in Utah,” requested by Hispanic civic, business and elected leaders, and funded in part by the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs.

It said, “Hispanic Utahns have poorer educational outcome as compared to Utahns in general, and have far lower educational attainment after high school.”

That “would seem to suggest the need for public sector intervention,” it adds.

The study noted that among all Utahns age 25 or older, just 6% have never graduated from high school. But 33% of Latinos fall into that category.

Another 25% of Utahns over age 25 did graduate from high school but received no higher education. In comparison, 31% of Hispanics are in that category.

In short, 64% of Latinos in Utah received no more than a high school degree, compared with 31% of Utahns overall.

“The difference is just as stark when comparing Utahns in general and Hispanic Utahns in terms of those with bachelor’s degrees and more education — 30% compared to 11%,” the study said.

It noted that previous studies have shown that “the differences in post-secondary attainment levels will tend to have significant implications for not only workers’ earnings, but also how well their children perform in school.”

Hispanics have lower household incomes than other Utahns — $61,506 compared to $75,780, the study said.

Also, it said that standardized testing and college entrance exams consistently show that Latinos in Utah receive lower scores than other Utah youth.

Several social and economic challenges may contribute to the low educational achievement among Hispanics, who make up 14.4% of the state population, the study said.

It noted that 36% of Latinos were born abroad, and many more have a parent who is an immigrant. About 100,000 immigrants in Utah are undocumented. About 9,000 are DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program participants.

About 24% of Utah Latinos are not yet U.S. citizens — compared to 5% of all Utahns — which “makes them unable to procure the types of social safety net services that can help them thrive,” the study said.

It said that 12% of Utah Hispanics do not speak English well.

“Many of these challenges are what one might expect within a group containing a high proportion of immigrants with low educational attainment levels,” the study said. “As educational attainment increases, many of those challenges will subside. Utah is already seeing a rapid increase in graduation rates among Hispanic students.”