WASHINGTON – Maryland continued to be one of the best-educated states in the country in 2004, when 35.2 percent of adults held at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a Census Bureau report to be released Monday.
That rate — for people age 25 or older — was fifth-best in the country, according to the Census.
But the report also showed that Hispanics in Maryland, as in the rest of the nation, lag far behind most other racial and ethnic groups when it comes to higher education. Just 15.5 percent of Maryland Hispanics had a bachelor’s degree or better in 2004, while the national rate was 12.1 percent.
State education officials said that, while still relatively low, the number of Hispanics with college degrees has grown faster than any other ethnic group in the last 10 years.
They said the report, overall, is good news for Maryland and its economy. The Census said that, nationwide, people with a bachelor’s degree earn almost twice as much as those with just a high school diploma.
“The baccalaureate has increasingly become the union card to the professions,” said Michael Keller, director of the Office of Policy Analysis and Research at the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Keller said that because Maryland is a relatively wealthy state, it tends to attract a higher percentage of degree holders. That, in turn, attracts the companies that help keep the economy here vital, he said.
“What you have is a highly educated workforce,” he said.
The Census report said Asians were the most highly educated ethnic group in Maryland in 2004, with 50.7 percent of Asians over age 25 holding bachelor’s degrees or better.
Non-Hispanic whites were next, with college degrees held by 39 percent of them. The report said 27.3 percent of blacks in the state had degrees in 2004.
But Keller said that all ethnic groups in Maryland — except whites — have had an increase in the percentage of people who hold degrees in the past 10 years.
“All the growth was due to racial and ethnic minorities,” he said.
Despite their overall lower numbers, the most explosive growth was among Hispanics. A Maryland Higher Education Commission report released this month said that Hispanics have seen a 76 percent increase in the number of students with bachelor’s degrees since 1994 — the highest increase of any of the other ethnic groups measured in the state.
But Natali Fani, an advocacy specialist for Casa de Maryland, says there are still many obstacles for Hispanics in Maryland who seek a higher education.
“Many people really want to go to” to college, she said, “but unfortunately not everyone has the opportunity.”
She said that many Hispanics who live in Maryland may be undocumented citizens, so they do not have Social Security numbers — which most colleges require for entry.
And Hispanics who are not in Maryland permanently but are here on temporary provisional status are not eligible for in-state tuition, even if they live in state and have been here for years, Fani said.
She said that many Hispanics who are on temporary provisional status are also not eligible for scholarships. That forces many to get an associate’s degree at a community college instead because it is cheaper.
But Keller said that the increasing availability of community college education for all groups — along with increases in financial aid and scholarships for many — should help the state continue to remain among the best-educated in the country.
He said access to higher education in the country is becoming increasingly “egalitarian” and he is confident no group, including Hispanics, will be left behind.
“The gap will continue to narrow,” Keller said.
-30- CNS 03-25-05