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5 California colleges recognized for boosting Latino college completion

Excelencia in Education named 10 institutions nationwide whose mentoring, financial, academic and internship programs helped Hispanic students succeed.
Students walk back to their dorms with takeout breakfast from Gastronome at Cal State University of Fullerton on Aug. 21, 2020 in Fullerton, Calif.
Students walk back to their dorms with takeout breakfast from Gastronome at Cal State University, Fullerton, on Aug. 21, 2020, in Fullerton, Calif.Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

Five California four-year colleges and universities are among ten higher education institutions that have been recognized for implementing programs and strategies that are helping more Hispanic students attain college degrees.

The nonprofit group Excelencia in Education, aimed at the acceleration of Latino students in higher education, singled out the institutions through its 2021 Seal of Excelencia.

In California, the institutions are: California State University, Fresno; California State University, Fullerton; San Diego State University; University of California, Merced; and the University of California, Riverside.

Fresno State, located in the agricultural region of the San Joaquin Valley, was recognized for its paid internship program with engineering, construction management and industrial technology companies. It has resulted in substantially higher graduation rates — 72 percent compared to 48 percent of all students in the school's College of Engineering.

Fresno State's student body is 55 percent Latino, and 67 percent are first-generation college students.

Cal State Fullerton, the second in the state to award the most bachelor's degrees to Latino students and the third in the country, was recognized for its Center for Scholars program, giving wraparound services to students, along with scholarship aid.

At the University of California, Riverside, Chicano/Latino graduates have tripled in numbers from 2009-10 to 2019-20, with the 6-year graduation rate at 73 percent for Latino students, compared to the national average of 54 percent. Excelencia touted its community college transfer program and a Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program. 

California, with the nation's largest Latino population, is still aiming to close the academic achievement gap among its Latino four-year college students, who have lower graduation rates compared to their white counterparts — 57 to 67 percent.

Other programs that were recognized in other states include the Honors College Dual Language Program at Miami Dade College, which offers classes in both English and Spanish and has a substantially higher retention rate (over 90 percent) than other honors programs.

Located near the Texas-Mexico border, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley's Tuition Advantage program enables qualified students to graduate without having to pay any tuition and mandatory fees. In addition, its substantially funded work-study program has a 75 percent retention rate among Latino students.

The three other schools rounding out the list are the University of Central Florida, Wilbur Wright College and Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Excelencia began issuing seals in 2018. The 10 colleges and universities join 14 others and in total, the 24 institutions account for 10 percent of all Latino college students and have graduated 12 percent of all Latinos in the U.S., Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education, said in a press release.

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