These Colleges Are Best at Guiding Latino Students to Success


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Nine U.S. colleges and universities have earned the first-ever Seal of Excelencia, a voluntary certification that recognizes a school’s commitment and ability to help Latino students find success.

The Seal of Excelencia, created by the nonprofit Latino education group Excelencia in Education, was awarded to:

  • Arizona State University
  • Austin Community College (Texas)
  • California State University Channel Islands
  • El Paso Community College (Texas)
  • Florida International University
  • Grand Valley State University (Michigan)
  • South Texas College
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Texas El Paso

“Institutions that strive for and most particularly those that earn the Seal, have demonstrated their capacity to grow our country’s highly-skilled workforce and develop leaders—in other words, these institutions are ensuring America’s future,” said Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education, in a statement. “If institutions aren’t effectively serving our Latino students, we lose a vital source of talent for our workforce and civic leadership.”

What is the Seal of Excelencia?

To earn the Seal, institutions must make significant strides in three key areas.

For data, they must show increasing enrollment and retention of Latino students. They also must improve financial support and diversity in faculty.

For practice, they must show positive results from evidence-based programs and policies that boost Latino student success.

For leadership, they must align data and practice with a strategic plan and public commitment to Latino student success.

Education graduation excelencia in education latino student college success
via Excelencia in Education

“Through the Seal certification process, we provide a platform for colleges and universities to reflect on their current impact, practices, and policies and implement new and better ones that respond to Latino students’ realities,” said Sarita Brown of Excelencia in Education in a statement. “Ultimately this serves all students.”

The inaugural nine Seal earners “graduated about 5% of all Latino students,” according to the Excelencia website.

Seal awardees will be announced every year.

Why Is the Seal Needed?

Less than half of Latino college students (46%) complete their 2- or 4-year degree within six years, according to national data. That is less than their white peers (62%).

Choosing the right college makes a difference.

“Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population but just 8.5% of students at selective institutions, the very places that have more resources to help students cross the finish line,” according to a report by the Education Trust. “Students who attend these colleges and universities are more likely to complete their degrees.”

The number of Latino or Hispanic-serving colleges and universities has risen 98% in the past 10 years. It jumped from 264 in 2007 to 523 in 2018, according to a March 2019 report by Excelencia in Education.

Education graduation excelencia in education latino student college success
via Excelencia in Education

A “Hispanic-Serving Institution” (HSI) has 25% or more undergraduate full-time equivalent Latino enrollment.

HSIs now constitute 17% of all colleges and universities.

But being an HSI doesn’t truly tell families how well a school serves Latino students. That’s the reason for the Seal, writes Eva-Marie Ayala of the Dallas Morning News.

“[Excelencia] developed the certification that requires schools to complete an extensive review ranging from how well retention rates improve to how much financial support is available to what initiatives are in place to support Latino student success,” Ayala wrote.

How Else Can We Support Latino Students?

Excelencia in Education also keeps a “what works” database of programs that help Latinos.

Éxito! Latino Cancer Research Leadership Training, led by Salud America! director Dr. Amelie Ramirez of UT Health San Antonio, is in the database as a program to watch.

Éxito! recruits 25 Latino students annually for a culturally tailored curriculum to promote pursuit of a doctoral degree and cancer research career.

“Institutions of higher education have an opportunity to combine data, practice, and leadership to accelerate Latino student success,” according to Excelencia in Education. “They ensure that Latino students graduate college and become agents of change for their communities and for the nation.”

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