The United States is facing a dramatic demographic challenge: Young Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the population, and they are the least likely to graduate from college. Experts say the future of the American economy is at stake, because higher education is essential in the 21st century economy. Rising by Degrees tells the story of Latino students working towards a college degree—and why it's so hard for them to get what they want.

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Katy Sorto wants a college degree. If she succeeds, she will be the first college graduate in her family. But she faces a long, hard haul to get what she wants. Katy is attending a community college. More than half of students who start community college still don't have any kind of degree six years later. But Katy is determined to beat the odds.

Many young Latinos are motivated to go to college because they want to make a new future for themselves and their families. But for Mario Martinez, going to college is not just about getting to a different future — it's about overcoming a troubled past.

Nineteen-year-old Thalia Navarette saw two paths in life after high school: Have a baby and be poor, or go to college and make it to the middle class.

Veder Garcia spoke no English when he arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador as a high school junior. That was 1998. Today he's completing his Ph.D. in plant biology at UC Berkeley. Community college was a critical step along the way.

Mike Carvalho always knew he would attend community college. What the 20-year-old didn't know is that he would drop out two years after he started.

Brad Stewart is provost of Montgomery College, a community college just outside of Washington, D.C. Stewart says the word has gotten out that you need a college degree and the campus is bursting at the seams.

Researchers tell us that community colleges are not what they used to be. In the past 30 years, enrollment at community colleges has quintupled, and the student body looks quite different than it did in the 1960s.

Idalia Fernandez and George Cushman are both trying to get more Latino students into college. She wants to give something back to the Latino community. He wants to do it for the good of the American economy.

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Support for Rising by Degrees comes from The Spencer Foundation.

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