Hispanic Students Show Mixed Results in Improving Readiness for College, Despite High Aspirations

IOWA CITY, Iowa—More Hispanic students took the ACT® test and aspired to attend college in 2015 than any prior year. Despite these gains, and 82 percent planning to enroll in postsecondary education, their progress in college readiness still trails their peers’ across the country.

These findings appear in a new report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015: Hispanic Students, released today by ACT and Excelencia in Education. Over the past five years (2011–2015), the number of Hispanic high school graduates taking the ACT has increased by 50 percent, to nearly 300,000 students. During the same time period, their progress toward meeting ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in at least three of the four core subject areas (English, math, reading and science) increased from 23 percent to 25 percent while still lagging behind the 40 percent national average in 2015.

“As more Hispanic students take the ACT, we gain a more complete picture of their progress and needs,” said Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners.  “While there are indications of some improvement, we need to do more to help these students reach equity of access and achievement so they can more frequently enroll and succeed in postsecondary education.”

According to the report, Hispanic students who take core curriculum courses in high school are significantly more likely to be academically ready for college than their peers who do not take similar courses, across all key subject areas.

“This report, while a portrayal of Latino students’ readiness for postsecondary education and the workforce, should also be read as an assessment of how the current educational system serves Hispanic students,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. “With one in four students in America’s K–12 system being Latino, identifying and supporting practices and strategies to better engage, prepare and propel them to reach their highest potential is critical to meeting the country’s long-term need for talent. This is at the center of the Excelencia/ACT partnership.”

Key report findings include:

  • Plateau in English: Compared to 2011, the percentage of Hispanic students meeting the English readiness benchmark has remained steady at 47 percent in 2015.
  • Decreases in reading and math: From 2011 to 2015, the percentage meeting the reading benchmark dropped from 35 to 31 percent; in math, 29 percent met the readiness benchmark in 2015, compared to 30 percent five years ago.
  • Gains in science: 23 percent of Hispanic students met the science benchmark in 2015, compared to 15 percent in 2011.
  • STEM interest: Among Hispanic students, those interested in STEM careers are the most prepared for college, with the highest benchmark achievement rates across all four subjects.

As part of ongoing efforts to increase access and equity, ACT recently began offering free access to the new version of ACT Online Prep, a web-based resource that helps students prepare to take the ACT test, to students from low-income families who register for a national ACT test date with a fee waiver.

About this research
The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015: Hispanic Students is the annual report from ACT and Excelencia in Education on the progress of U.S. high school graduates relative to college readiness. This year’s report shows that 59 percent of all students in the 2015 U.S. graduating class took the ACT, up from 47 percent in 2010. The increased number of test takers over the past several years enhances the breadth and depth of the data pool, providing a more comprehensive picture of the current graduating class in the context of college readiness as well as offering a glimpse at the emerging educational pipeline. During ACT registration, students are asked to provide information about family income, high school courses taken and postsecondary aspirations.

About ACT

ACT is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides assessment, research, information and program management services in the broad areas of education and workforce development. Each year, we serve millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses and government agencies, nationally and internationally. Though designed to meet a wide array of needs, all ACT programs and services have one guiding purpose—helping people achieve education and workplace success.


About Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education accelerates Latino student success in higher education by promoting Latino student achievement, conducting analysis to inform educational policies, and advancing institutional practices while collaborating with those committed and ready to meet the mission. Launched in 2004 in the nation’s capital, Excelencia is building a network of results-oriented educators and policymakers to address the U.S. economy’s need for a highly educated workforce and engaged civic leadership.