ON A recent afternoon Osbaldo Hernandez, 18, sat beaming in the college counsellors' office of Hancock High School. Almost all the students at Hancock, on Chicago's south-west side, are Hispanic. Osbaldo is one of a lucky batch to be accepted to Monmouth College in western Illinois. The son of immigrants, Osbaldo would not be the first in his family to enroll in college. But he could be the first to graduate. College is a crucial rung on the economic ladder. In 2007 graduates earned 77% more per hour than those with only a high-school degree. The share of poor teenagers aspiring to college tripled from 1980 to 2002. Nevertheless, rich, stupid children are more likely to graduate than poor, clever ones. Sadly, the increase in the proportion of Americans who graduate from college has slowed.