Report analyzes college paths of immigrants, second-generation Americans

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC — A new report by education researchers at RTI International sheds light on trends in college enrollment by the children of Hispanic and Asian families who recently arrived in the United States.

The report, titled “New Americans in Postsecondary Education: Enrollment Trends and Age at Arrival of Immigrants and Second-Generation Students,” was released Nov. 29.

The term “New Americans” encompasses two groups: first-generation immigrants, defined as people who moved to the United States as children, adolescents, or adults; and second-generation Americans, defined as people born in the United States who have at least one parent born elsewhere. The two largest groups of New Americans are Hispanics and Asians, the focus of this report.

The study’s lead author says the New American demographic is diverse and significant for U.S. colleges and universities.

“New Americans make up a large and varied segment of the postsecondary student population,” said Caren Arbeit, lead author and research education analyst at RTI. “With a better understanding of these students, schools can serve them more effectively.”

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • In the twelve years between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, the percentage of undergraduates who were immigrants remained stable, at about 8 to 10 percent, while the percentage who were second-generation increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
  • About half of Asian undergraduates, 49 percent, were immigrants in 2012, compared with just 17 percent of Hispanic undergraduates. Second-generation students accounted for 46 percent of both Asian and Hispanic undergraduates.
  • The age at which a person moves to the U.S. leads to different levels of college preparation and enrollment. In 2011-12, some 46 percent of immigrant undergraduates arrived in the U.S. as children, 20 percent as adolescents, and 34 percent as adults. A larger percentage of Hispanic than Asian immigrants arrived as children — 52 percent vs. 44 percent.
  • Immigrants who arrived as children were better prepared for college than their peers who arrived as adolescents or adults.
  • Compared to Hispanic immigrant students, Asian immigrant students are younger, more likely to be male, more likely to have parents who attended college, and more likely themselves to attend a 4-year college.

Data in the report are drawn from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which RTI conducts for the National Center for Education Statistics. The report is a follow-up to a 2012 study that drew from a previous edition of NPSAS.

“We know that a college degree leads to more skilled employment, higher earnings, and civic engagement,” said Laura Horn, coauthor and director of RTI’s Center for Postsecondary Education. “This report gives us a clearer picture of the extent to which New Americans participate in this important opportunity.” 

Highlights

  • A new report by RTI International sheds light on trends in college enrollment by children of Hispanic and Asian families who recently arrived in the United States
  • About half of Asian undergraduates, 49 percent, were immigrants in 2012, compared with just 17 percent of Hispanic undergraduates
  • Data in the report are drawn from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which RTI conducts for the National Center for Education Statistics