Survey: Black, Hispanic Floridians believe college degree is key for workforce success

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The vast majority of Hispanic and Black voters believe a bachelor’s degree is key to success, according to a new survey released by the Helios Education Foundation and the Florida College Access Network.

The survey, conducted by Sachs Media Group, found two-thirds of Hispanic and 58% of Black Floridians say post-high school education is a requirement for economic prosperity. Half of White Floridians feel the same.

The polling belies the gap in educational attainment among the three groups. Whites, by double digits, are more likely earn a college degree than Blacks or Hispanics.

The poll also found that while a majority believe that anyone — regardless of race or socioeconomic status — is capable of earning a degree, Black and Hispanic voters were more likely to strongly disagree.

The most-cited barrier to a college education was cost, though many said they don’t believe high schoolers are adequately prepared for college. Blacks and Hispanics were least likely to view a college education as affordable and most likely to cite cost as a barrier to attaining a credential beyond high school.

Hispanic and Black Floridians will make up a majority of the workforce by 2030, so it’s critical for Florida that we close the attainment gap among these groups,” said Paul J. Luna, president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. “By helping more students overcome barriers to degree completion we strive to ensure educational equity for all students, ensuring Florida benefits from a richly diverse workforce.”

Three in five Floridians said they believe any student who wants a post-high school education – which includes professional credential programs – should have access.

Also, half of respondents said equity is a top issue when it comes to ensuring that Florida has a strong workforce for the future. An overwhelming majority of parents (94%) across all races and ethnicities believe at least one of their children will go to college, with the percentage going up as parents have more education themselves.

More than half of Florida college students are from lower-income households and qualify for the Pell grant and other forms of need-based financial aid. But many, especially those who might come from families where college is not the norm, may not know how to navigate the system to overcome barriers and gain access.

“Research has suggested time and again that paying for college is the biggest barrier keeping students from attaining a degree, yet every year Florida students leave millions of dollars in Pell Grants on the table,” said Charleita M. Richardson, executive director of Florida College Access Network. “These survey results show that, now more than ever, Florida students and families need the supports to successfully move through the college application and financial aid processes.”

The survey was conducted July 27-Aug. 3. It took responses from 1,688 Florida voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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