Report: ‘One-Stop’ Services Help Latino College Students

A new report outlines how community colleges can improve retention and completion rates for Latino students — in particular, through targeted financial counseling and assistance.

The report, “Supporting Latino Community College Students: an Investment in Our Economic Future,” was conducted by the advocacy group Excelencia in Education and the program, Single Stop USA.

Excelencia focuses on efforts that build Latino student success at colleges and universities.

Single Stop USA is a non-profit program offered on 17 community college campuses. Eight of the Single Stop sites are Hispanic-serving institutions (where the full-time student population is at least 25 percent Latino), which are predominantly in New York. The program provides student services such as financial and legal counseling, and assistance with taxes.

The report makes several key suggestions.

It suggests that policymakers should use the Higher Education Act reauthorization to provide incentives to colleges to improve student services that encourage retention and completion of degrees. In addition, colleges should create very targeted strategies to better inform Latino and low-income students about financial aid opportunities.

The report also describes how Single Stop works. The program is usually housed in a community college’s office of financial aid or student services. A site coordinator interviews the student and then determines what sorts of benefits may be able to assist the student with staying enrolled. Assistance could include public health insurance, food stamps, legal services and tax services.

The report describes how Julio, a 23-year-old student at Miami Dade College studying architectural design living with his father, used the services of Single Stop to apply for food stamps, Medicaid and disability for his family.

According to the report, about 55 percent of Latino students who have been helped through the program receive aid with preparing their taxes, 23 percent with public benefits, 13 percent with financial counseling, and 10 percent with legal services.

The HSIs that Single Stop serves are Contra Costa College, Miami Dade College, Central New Mexico Community College, CUNY Bronx Community College, CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY Hostos Community College, CUNY LaGuardia Community College, and CUNY Queensborough Community College.

Related Links:

– “Supporting Latino Community College Students: An Investment in Our Economic Future,” Excelencia in Education.

– “Group paves way for Latinos to graduate college,” NBC Latino.

– “New report highlights innovative ways community colleges can help Latino students succeed,” Latina Lista.

– Single Stop USA.

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Analysis: More Colleges See Large Latino Enrollments

About 54 percent of all U.S. Latino undergraduate college students in 2011-12 attended Hispanic-Serving Institutions, a new analysis has found.

HSIs are federally defined as those accredited colleges and universities where at least 25 percent of the full-time undergraduate students enrolled are Latino. Such colleges and universities now make up 11 percent of all colleges and universities in the country, according to the report by Excelencia in Education and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

During the 2011-12 school year, there were 356 HSIs nationwide, according to the Excelencia analysis, which used data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Such schools are growing at a fast clip, as the number of HSIs grew by 45 institutions between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.

The designation is important because HSIs can qualify for federal Title V education funding, allowing them to expand academic programs and work on improving graduation rates.

Excelencia vice president of policy and co-founder Deborah Santiago told NBC Latino that it’s critical to ensure that HSIs receive the resources they need.

“Census data says Latino enrollment in college is the highest it’s ever been, but now it’s time to focus on the institutions they are attending, understand their reasons for attendance and focus on the quality of education they are receiving,” Santiago said.

Santiago added that it’s important to keep a list of HSIs because many don’t even know their status and that they can qualify for special federal funding.

Excelencia has identified 250 additional institutions where enrollment ranges between 15-24% Latino, making the schools potential future HSIs.

According to Excelencia, the largest group of HSIs are public two-year community colleges. Two-year schools make up 47 percent of HSIs, a total of 169. By comparison, there are 70 public four-year HSIs, 99 private non-profit four-year institutions, and 18 private two-year non-profit institutions.

California had 112 HSIs — the most of any state, by far. It was followed by Texas, with 66, and Puerto Rico, with 61. The majority of the schools are located in cities, not suburbs or rural areas. And when the enrollments of the HSIs in 2011-12 were averaged out, their total enrollment was 47 poercent Latino — representing 943,246 Hispanic college students.

Related Links:

– “Hispanic-Serving Institution Tally Increases 14.5 Percent,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

– Analysis of Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Excelencia in Education.

– “Number of U.S. Hispanic-Serving colleges and universities sees big jump,” NBC Latino.

Initiatives Target Improving Education in South Texas

The predominantly Latino communities along the border between Texas and Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley are some of the most impoverished in the nation. The Valley’s residents have long struggled with low educational attainment.

According to a fact sheet from the advocacy group Excelencia in Education, only about 16% of Latino adults ages 25 to 64 in the region hold an associate’s degree or higher–compared with 37% of white, non-Hispanic, adults. About 95% of the K-12 students in the Valley are Latino.

But the higher education institutions in the region are working on major reform initiatives that aim to reverse the trend.

At the University of Texas-Pan American, freshmen with ACT scores of 18 or less or who are not in the top 25% of their graduating class must enroll in course that helps them focus on learning and transitioning into college. About 77% of freshman take the course, which was first created in 2008.

At the University of Texas at Brownsville, high school students can enroll in dual-enrollment courses. The program has grown so popular that about one-third of the university’s students are participants in the dual enrollment program. According to the university, retention rates are higher for college students who were once in the program than for those who did not participate in the program.

State education officials and legislators also are paying attention to the region. Plans are also underfoot to merge the two universities, and to create a medical school in the region at the resulting larger university. Recently, the merger legislation passed the Texas House and Senate higher education committees. The presidents of both universities also support the proposal.

In January, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called on lawmakers lawmakers to approve the merger, therefore allowing the two South Texas universities to be able to access more funds known as the Permanent University Fund. The huge pot of money currently is available to the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems, but not UTPA and UTB.

“I can’t speak for the legislature, but this vision is so compelling, the need is so great, that it can’t help but make sense,” said Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, in an Inside Higher Ed article.

Related Links:

– “Latino College Completion: Rio Grande Valley,” Excelencia in Education.

– “Perry: Let South Texas access permanent university fund,” The Texas Tribune.

– “UT System Planning New Rio Grande University,” The Texas Tribune.

– “Everything’s Getting Bigger in Texas,” Inside Higher Ed.

Report: Consider Latinos When Redesigning Federal Financial Aid

The advocacy group Excelencia in Education has released a new report focused on the importance of taking the Latino college student experience into consideration if and when the federal financial aid system in the United States is redesigned.

“Using a Latino Lens to Reimagine Aid Design and Delivery” was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While Latinos certainly should not be viewed as a monolithic group, Excelencia finds that certain scenarios are more common among Hispanic students.

For example, they are more likely to attend community colleges, take courses part-time while working, study online and at multiple colleges, live off campus with family and take more than four years to complete their degree.

“Using the profile of America’s young and growing Latino population as the baseline, rather than the footnote, to define the post-traditional student, we are providing a fresh perspective on financial aid policy for all students,” said Deborah Santiago, Excelencia’s vice president for policy and research, in a news release.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on some of the more significant recommendations in the paper. One controversial example is recommending that students be required to complete a Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) form when they apply to college. The publication said Santiago argued in favor of such a stance because too many Latino students are not receiving grants or loans because they don’t complete their forms.

In addition, the white paper pushes for increased investment in college preparation and work study programs, making Pell grants an entitlement that guarantees support to low-income students, and revising the expected family contribution formula and what “sufficient” funds are.

 The Chronicle also points out that the government programs giving out aid (Perkins loans, supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work Study) benefit colleges that joined back in the 1970s when the programs were launched–large public universities and private colleges in the North.

But Santiago points out that Latinos are flooding colleges in the Southwest United States, which need more aid.

The organization also shared four student profiles in their report, to humanize the issue. As reporters, profiling students in similar situations would be a way to make this story resonate more with readers.

For example, Excelencia cites one example of a 24-year-old Mexican-American woman named Yuridia. She works full-time, holds a GED and has children. She applied to only one college, because it was close to her home. She was not well-informed about financial aid, so she did not apply during her first year.

Clearly, many students face more than one challenge to completing their degrees.

Looking for these stories of such students can be illuminating.

Related Links:

– “Using a Latino Lens to Re-imagine Aid Design and Delivery,” Excelencia in Education. 

– “Aid System Could Better Serve Latino Students, Says Report Calling for Reforms,” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

– “At Capitol Hill briefing, Excelencia in Education urges policy makers to apply Latino student experience to revamp of federal financial aid.” 

Report: Hispanic-Serving Institutions Achieving Success

Latino college students tend to be highly concentrated in a small number of schools known as Hispanic-Serving Institutions—public and non-profit colleges where 25 percent or more of the undergraduate students enrolled are Hispanic.

In fact, during the 2010-11 school year about 53 percent of Hispanic college students attended HSIs, which only make up about 10 percent of all higher education institutions. That same year, there were 311 HSIs in the nation.

The advocacy group Excelencia in Education group recently took a closer look at HSIs between 2004 and 2009 and made some interesting findings.

Since HSIs were first defined in 1992, the number of institutions has grown, as has federal funding in the form of Title V-DHSI grants–in the amount of $117 million in 2010-11. The institutions also are using the funds to focus more tightly on faculty development and student services.

Over the years, the federal funding has become more focused. For example, funds go toward purposes such as purchasing science equipment and books. Other funds go toward supporting low-income students with academic support services and mentoring.

The report highlights a number of successful uses of Title V funding:

Imperial Valley College of California used $548,125 toward Project ACCESO (Accessing Community College Education by Strengthening Outreach) initially in 2004. The college spend funds on faculty staff development, online assessments and improving technology.

Dodge City Community College in Kansas used $572,585 in 2007 to focus on student success, including strengthening developmental courses, broadening distance learning opportunities, developing ESL assessments and support and renovating the Academic Support Center.

Mountain View College in Texas used $464,589 in 2000 to focus on student success efforts including development a success center, supporting faculty development and implementing early intervention for struggling students.

Excelencia calls for future research to determine whether HSIs are increasing Latino student success with the help of federal funding support. Among the questions posed, the group asks: Does federal investment in institutional capacity building efforts develop stronger institutions and support access to a quality education? And, what measures of accountability ensure federal investments reach students?

Are there any HSIs in your area–and what are they doing to improve Hispanic student success? Because Latinos are so highly concentrated in a relative small number of colleges, the success of these schools plays a large role in determining the educational outcomes of Latinos in general.

Related Links:

– “From Capacity to Success: HSIs and Latino Student Success Through Title V.” Excelencia in Education. 

Excelencia in Education Highlights Programs Promoting Latino College Completion

Over the past seven years, the advocacy group Excelencia in Education has compiled an impressive list of programs that are working to improve the college graduation rates of Latinos.

Every year, the group recognizes nominees in the areas of associate, bachelor and graduate level programs that have a track record of increasing Latino college enrollment, improving academic outcomes and increasing graduation rates.

For the 2012 Examples of Excelencia report, 159 programs were nominated. Of those nominees, three received the top awards and 16 others were national finalists.

Here’s a little bit of information about the top three programs recognized this year:

Valencia College’s Direct Connect . The University of Central Florida and four Florida community colleges partnered in 2006 to promote smoother transfers between colleges and universities. The colleges and universities share use of certain classrooms and labs, as well as advisors. Since the program’s inception, 3,695 Latino students have transfered from community colleges to the university.

– California State University, Bakersfield, School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering. The university has focused on increasing the number of Latinos studying in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, in addition to working with nearby Bakersfield College to provide streamlined transfers between the two entities. About 40 percent of the program’s 1,039 students are Latino. About half of the community college transfer students studying in STEM programs are Latino, an increase from 22 percent in 2006. The university has also seen an increase in the number of Hispanic students majoring in STEM fields.

– University of Texas, El Paso, Master of Business Administration. The predominantly Latino university has focused on strengthening the MBA program through various efforts. They include diversifying faculty and expanding recruitment efforts. More than 59 percent of the 320 students served by the program annually are Hispanic and there were 104 Hispanic graduates from the program in 2010.

Excelencia will begin accepting nominations for next year’s list in January 2013. A searchable database is available online that lists past honorees, so you can search for programs in your area that may be worthy of media coverage.

Related Links:

– Examples of Excelencia 2012.

– Growing What Works Database.

– “Seventh annual Celebracion de Excelencia event honors top programs that increase Latino student success in College.” Excelencia in Education.

Report Names Top 25 Colleges Graduating Latinos in STEM Fields

A new report by the advocacy group Excelencia in Education found that Latinos earned just eight percent of all the degrees and certificates awarded in STEM-related professions in 2009-10.

STEM represents concentrations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Of the degrees awarded to Latinos, about 60 percent were at the bachelor’s level. Hispanics were also much more likely to pursue certificates, and much less likely to earn graduate degrees.

The Excelencia report is part of a series called “Finding Your Workforce,” which is identifying colleges graduating the most Latinos within specific disciplines. Excelencia stresses that business leaders will need an educated Latino workforce for the United States to remain competitive.

In the most recent study, the organization named the top 25 colleges and universities most successful in graduating the highest numbers of Latinos in STEM. The top schools were located in just six states, in addition to Puerto Rico— Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Illinois and New Mexico. Most of the schools are public and are Hispanic Serving Institutions, which must have an undergraduate enrollment that is at least 25 percent Latino.

Excelencia found that Latinos tended to be concentrated in lower-paying STEM professions such as service technicians and were not as well represented in higher-paying jobs such as engineering.

The group ranked the top 25 schools broken out by discipline and degree level–certificates, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates.

The report also highlighted a number of programs working to increase Latino representation in STEM, and how they’re working to do so and their levels of success. For example, the Jaime Escalante Math & Science Program at East Los Angeles Community College aims to continue the famous teacher’s mission by providing inner-city youth access to challenging Advanced Placement calculus courses. The Mathematics Intensive Summer Session at California State University provides intensive math courses to high school girls during the summer.

The top schools in awarding bachelor’s degrees are as follows:

Biological/Biomedical Sciences: the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez with 254 graduates (second was the University of Texas-Pan American with 176)

Physical Sciences: the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras (67), with the highest school in the United States being Florida International University (51)

Computer/Information Systems: Atlantic College in Puerto Rico (148), with the highest school in the United States being University of Phoenix-Online (96).

Engineering: University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez (629), with the highest U.S. school being Florida International University at 190

Mathematics: University of Texas at El Paso (29)

If you’re a reporter, page through to see if your local school is on the list. The programs that are working to increase the numbers of Latinos in STEM tracks also could be worth a feature story.

Related Links:

– “Finding Your Workforce: the top 25 institutions graduating Latinos in STEM– 2009-10.” 

– “Nation’s Top Colleges for producing Latino STEM graduates.” Learning the Language blog. Education Week.

– “Study: Few Latinos Obtained PhD’s in STEM.” Hispanically Speaking News.

– “Top 25 institutions graduating Latinos in STEM Fields.” NBC Latino.

Study Examines Latino College Completion Rates in Every State

Latino students continue to struggle with lower college graduation rates when compared with other groups, according to a new study by the group Excelencia in Education that examines rates in all 50 states. The study also lists programs in each state that are working to close the gap.

The report highlights several points:

  • Nationally, in 2011 about 21 percent of Latino adults had associate’s degrees or higher, compared with 57 percent of Asians, 44 percent of whites and 30 percent of blacks.
  • In 2010, the gap in degree attainment between Latino and white students averaged about 14 percent. Illinois, which has a K-12 public school Hispanic enrollment of 21 percent, had one of the largest gaps at 15 percent.
  • In California and Texas, the two states with the nation’s largest K-12 Latino enrollments, graduation rates for Latinos are below the national average for the group.  In California, about 16 percent of Latino adults hold an associate degree or higher; in Texas, about 17 percent of Latino adults hold an associate’s or higher.
  • In 2010, there were nine states where more than 25 percent of Latino adults had degrees. In Florida, which has a K-12 public school Hispanic enrollment of 26 percent, about 31 percent of Latino adults have degrees. The other states have much smaller overall Hispanic populations.

The study calls attention to the fact that states’ future economies are dependent on the success of the growing Latino population.

“The state-level data on Latino college completion show that today’s investment, or lack thereof, in Latino academic preparation and degree attainment can have a compounding effect on state populations, economies, and communities in the near future,” said Deborah Santiago, the group’s co-founder.

The state-specific fact sheets are useful resources for reporters. I like that the state-specific breakdowns highlight programs that are working to improve the graduation rates. It’s worth considering a localized story in your community. This gives a good opportunity to discuss possible solutions and not just the problem.

For example, The Puente Project at the University of California works to increase the number of disadvantaged students who enroll in universities and then return to their home communities as mentors. The Achieving a College Education Program (ACE)  at Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona targets helping students who don’t consider going to college possible. The Dual Enrollment Program at Eastern Connecticut State University works to recruit students in Hartford’s inner city schools to enroll in college and then transfer to the university.

Study Names Colleges Graduating the Most Latino Students

The nonprofit group Excelencia in Education recently named the top colleges graduating Latinos in 2009-10 in a new report, Finding Your Workforce: The Top 25 Institutions Graduating Latinos.

Colleges and universities in California, Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico showed up the most often on the lists, which broke out the top 25 institutions by certificates and degree level. Almost all of the schools tops in awarding bachelor’s degree are public, and many Hispanics earning certificates are doing so at for-profit schools.

According to the study, Miami Dade College awarded the most associate’s degrees to Latinos (5,893) and Florida International University awarded the most bachelor’s (3,918) and master’s degrees (1,014). “We’re proud of our accomplishments in graduating Hispanic students ready to make their mark in a global economy,” FIU president Mark Rosenberg told the organization.

El Paso Community College awarded the second highest number of associate’s degrees to Latinos (2,666) and its neighbor the University of Texas at El Paso also was the second highest in awarding bachelor’s degrees (2,382).

At the doctoral level, the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus is at the top with 67 graduates. If you scan down the list, Harvard University places at #18, and awarded 26 doctoral degrees to Latinos, making up just 4 percent of the total awarded.

The study is the first part of a series accompanying the Finding Your Workforce project, which will focus on helping employers and recruiters identify top-producing schools of Latino graduates in certain sectors. “Corporate leaders have expressed both their desire to hire more Latinos and their frustration at not knowing where to find Latinos with the necessary educational credentials in their sectors,” Excelencia in Education’s president Sarita Brown said. “Therefore, we are using our unique analytical focus to provide practical information to address this need and make the direct connection between Latino college completion and America’s future workforce.”

The data cited in the report came from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Institutional Characteristics and Completions Survey, 2009-10, from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Department of Education.

To learn more, you can read the study here.