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Most Hispanics in the United States think higher education is affordable despite soaring tuition costs and an ever-expanding student debt bubble.

According to a new Gallup-Lumina Foundation study, 51 percent of Hispanics think "education beyond high school is affordable to anyone in this country who needs it."

Just 19 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites feel the same.


So why are Hispanics way more optimistic than their white and black peers about the affordability of postsecondary education?

"This is a population of folks who are very hungry for education and see it as a pathway to a better life," Brandon Busteed, the Gallup lead on the study and executive director of Gallup Education, told Fusion.


One potential theory Busteed offers is that there's a large immigrant population in the Hispanic community and first-generation immigrants see education as the only pathway to a good job.

Another is that data indicates adults without a postsecondary credential are more likely to think college graduates are well-prepared for the workforce than those who hold a credential, and since Hispanic adults are less likely to hold a credential than their white peers, they may have more optimism about college.


Still, whites, on average, have more than nine times the wealth of Hispanics, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that they would have a more difficult time affording college. Yet Hispanic students are less likely to take out student loans and more likely to work, according to the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Latino students are also more likely to attend community colleges, which often have relatively low tuition, close to home, which allows students to work and cut out room and board costs.

The makeup of colleges is changing as more young Hispanics pursue higher education.


Between 1976 and 2011, the percentage of college students who identified as Hispanic rose from 4 percent to 14 percent, according to National Center for Education Statistics data. In 2012, seven out of 10 Latino high school graduates enrolled in college, according to the Pew Research Center, which was higher than the enrollment rate for students identifying as white or black.

The survey found that most Americans think colleges need to do more to prepare students for success in the working world, and that they need to do more to serve an increasingly diverse array of students. Virtually all adults in the United States think high schoolers need to go on to college or technical school to be successful in today's economy.


"We as country have got to get behind this Hispanic population that is coming to college with very high expectations for it and valuing it," Busteed said, "and make sure we're supporting them in the right ways."

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.