By Me. Don't steal. It's interesting, though that the stats are so low for the general public.

Most Americans believe a college degree is imperative to becoming successful, but higher education is more important to Hispanics and African Americans than to White Americans, according to a study released last week.

According to the survey results, based on more than 1,400 interviews of the general public and parents of high school students, 65 percent of Hispanic parents and 47 percent of African-American parents consider college the most important component of success. Only 33 percent of White parents and 35 percent of the general public agreed.

Overall, 77 percent of Americans think college is more important now than it was 10 years ago, the study shows. About 87 percent of Americans think college has become as important as a high school education used to be.

The numbers are not surprising to Edward Codina, executive director of information and policy analysis for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. “It reaffirms what we have known for years, that Hispanic parents value education. They are very pragmatic,” he said.

The findings conflict with the number of minority students enrolled in schools of higher education, though. In 1998 about 37 percent of Whites aged 18 to 24 were enrolled in higher education compared with 30 percent of African Americans and 20 percent of Hispanics, according to federal statistics.

Codina attributes the discrepancy to Hispanic parents’ inability to understand the educational system. “They don’t know how to help their children,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t understand simple things like taking the right courses in middle school.”

Many Hispanic parents lack the financial resources to send their children to college, Codina said. “Twenty years ago there were more grants and less loans,” he said. “Investing in youth was a national issue and now it’s become an individual responsibility. We need to reverse that shift.”

The study was made up of more than 1,000 phone interviews and additional focus groups. It was commissioned by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in San Jose, Calif. and was conducted by New York’s Public Agenda, a nonprofit research group.

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