A new survey of high school seniors graduating in 2023 found a sizable gap between young, Latino, Black and male students who want to go to college compared with those who believe they’ll go.
The “Class of 2023: Who Plans to Go to College?” report published Monday by YouthTruth, a national nonprofit organization that conducts education surveys, canvassed 25,000 respondents from 223 schools in 21 states.
While 73% of Latino students surveyed said they wanted to go to college, the number represented a 6% drop since 2019, while 64% said they expected to go to college. Black students saw a similar gap — 74% said they want to go, down 5% since 2019, while 66% said they expected to go.
The numbers for Latino and Black students closely reflect the national average, which sits at 74% for all seniors who aspire to attend college and 66% for all who expect to go.
“There’s this durable gap between aspiration and expectations that has not recovered through the pandemic,” Jennifer De Forest, the report’s lead author and director of organizational learning and communications at YouthTruth, told NBC News. “For kids who have less options, less capital … they’re the ones who are finding less opportunity.”
Overall, females expressed significantly higher aspirations and expectations at 83% and 77%, respectively, compared with males at 68% and 57%.
“For these young men, they’re really questioning college at its essence,” De Forest said. “They’re not feeling like they have an opportunity to do the things that interest them that are purposeful and apply.”
When it comes to expectations to attend a four-year college, the percentage of all seniors expecting to attend has held steady at 46% since 2019. The percentage of all students expecting to attend a community college dropped from 25% in 2019 to 20% in 2023.
For Black, Latino and male seniors, the expectation to attend community college diminished further for each group individually. Since 2019, Black students’ expectations dropped from 25% to 17% in 2023; 23% to 18% for males and 34% to 27% for Latino students.
With declining college enrollments and undergraduate degree attainment — which fell last year for the first time in a decade — researchers are concerned about community college pathways for underrepresented students.
“The large themes were students, particularly Black and Hispanic … wanting more end-to-end support through the process of understanding how college works, how to choose college — not just the application process,” De Forest said. “They need the whole system demystified.”
Edwin Flores reports and produces for NBC Latino and is based in Anaheim, California.