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Latino Daily News

Wednesday March 9, 2011

60 National Partners Release Roadmap to Improve Latino College Completion Rates

60 National Partners Release Roadmap to Improve Latino College Completion Rates

Photo: Excelencia in Education

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Rep. Charles Gonzalez, Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, former Secretary of Education Richard Riley, and Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, chairman of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, today joined Excelencia in Education and its 60 national partner organizations for a Capitol Hill event to release the Roadmap for Ensuring America’s Future.

“America cannot become the world leader in college degrees, nor will it have a globally competitive workforce in the future, if it does not focus on improving Latino college completion,” said Gonzalez.  “The Roadmap for Ensuring America’s Future is a critical tool that provides us with a clear path forward to achieve that future.”

“America’s continued global leadership depends on producing an educated workforce prepared to compete in the jobs and economy of tomorrow,” said Riley.  “The data is compelling that national, state, local, and community leaders in education, public policy, and workforce development must put particular focus on Latino college completion.  This Roadmap is an important step in that direction.”

Sarita Brown and Deborah Santiago, co-founders of Excelencia in Education, presented findings and recommendations from the Roadmap.  The Roadmap is the result of a collaborative effort led by Excelencia in Education and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education, and the Kresge Foundation.

The Roadmap includes a rigorous statistical analysis of completion to create benchmarks to measure America’s progress toward becoming the world leader in college degrees.  Based on this research, Latinos will have to earn 5.5 million college degrees by 2020 for America to reach 51 percent degree attainment and become the world leader.

Research presented at the event also revealed that Latino students are more likely to be non-traditional students – enrolled part-time, later in life, and at two-year institutions – and they tend to enroll where they live, so state and institutional initiatives that focus on those students can make a big difference.

The Roadmap recommends that colleges and universities focus on policies that increase retention for working students in good standing, increase early college high schools and dual enrollment programs, and guarantee need-based aid for qualified students.  For example, to increase student retention, the Universidad de Sagrado Corazón offers main courses online as a backup system for students in good academic standing with unexpected work schedule changes during a semester.  The University of Texas-El Paso Promise Plan covers all tuition and mandatory fees for students with family incomes of $30,000 or less who are Texas residents, complete 30 credits a year, and earn a grade point average of 2.0 or higher.

At the state level, the Roadmap suggests that leaders simplify the transfer pathway between two-year and four-year colleges, make college accessible and affordable for students of all economic backgrounds, and ensure state higher education leaders specifically address strategies to expand college completion among underrepresented groups.  For example, In California, students who successfully complete 60 units of transferrable coursework at a community college will receive an associate degree and guaranteed admission with upper division junior standing to a California State University system institution.

While institutional and government policy play critical roles, the Roadmap recommends that community leaders do more to inform parents and family members about the pathway to college and to engage their community in supporting college access and degree attainment.  For example, Univision developed a multi-platform education campaign, Es el momento (This is the moment) targeting Spanish-speaking parents and families about the U.S. educational pipeline.

The federal government has focused historically on college access and opportunity through financial aid (Pell grants and Stafford Loans) and support programs (e.g., GEAR Up and TRIO).  However, for America to lead the world in college degrees, the Roadmap encourages the federal government also to focus on college retention and degree attainment by aligning efforts on work-study program offerings in artnerships with states.  Latino undergraduates had the highest average work-study aid award of any racial or ethnic group during the 2007 to 2008 academic year.  Campus-based work-study programs allow students to work and earn income while enrolled and provide financial support beyond tuition and fees, resulting in improved retention to graduation.