By Julissa Catalan
Advocacy group Excelencia in Education is turning its focus to graduation now that college attendance and retention rates are at an all-time high for Latinos.
The Washington, D.C.based nonprofit, which focuses on Latino students’ success rate in college, has launched a new program called Presidents for Latino Student Success. Currently, 17 college and university presidents have pledged to support the national effort to increase degree attainment for Latino students.
“This is an extension of something we started about three years ago called Excelencia in Action,” Excelencia in Education President Sarita E. Brown told VOXXI. “It really creates direct ties with leadership in colleges and universities to produce better results in terms of Latino college completion.”
“Excelencia in Education has become an invaluable resource for higher-education leaders who understand that the success of America’s Latino students is critical to our nation’s future,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Long Beach City College President. “Excelencia‘s analysis makes clear that for the U.S. to regain the top ranking in the world for college-degree attainment, Latinos will need to earn 5.5 million more degrees by 2020. Every higher-educational institution in America could benefit from Excelencia‘s research, evidence-based practices, and proven ability to bring together key stakeholders to move our nation toward that goal.”
Now that the number of Latino students enrolled in college has gone up, Excelencia is focusing on those students graduating from their programs by aiming to provide solutions to roadblocks like financial assistance as well as degree attainment and accessibility.
“Their objective is to improve both the participation of Latino students at their institutions but more importantly the graduation from their institutions,” Brown said. “It’s looking at the availability of courses and making sure they’re offered when you can take them. It’s doing those kinds of things in a way that not only the student stays committed to their education but the institution recognizes its responsibility because they have the most ability to influence those students moving through the program quickly.”
Aside from increasing graduation achievement, the end goal for Presidents for Latino Student Success is to close the equity gap.
“Unfortunately, it’s not a quick fix,” Brown said. “This is not about mainly the challenge, this is about rising to meet the challenge, and in that respect, I think we have to stay the course. We have to stay with it until it’s done.”
Nonprofits such as Excelencia in Education are important for the Latino community’s educational progress, especially in a time when Latino-focused universities like The National Hispanic University are no longer available to students.